2018-19 Everton Goalkeepers
After basking in the glory of England’s run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, there was always going to be a “difficult second album” feel to Jordan Pickford’s 2018-19 campaign at Everton.
Much of that involved the increased media attention that being Three Lions’ number one brings, with every mistake highlighted and analysed in minute detail.
As a result, most journalists – certainly outside of Merseyside – will focus on his mistakes against Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle when analysing what lies ahead for the former Sunderland man, even if that is at the expense of what he brings to the team.
Pickford’s fierce determination to succeed is one of his greatest strengths and a key reason why he has battled his way to the top of game. But it is also a weakness as he hasn’t always been able to channel it in the correct way, leading to instances of rash judgement, hot-headedness and a lack of concentration.
He certainly learnt a harsh lesson when failing to deal with Virgil van Dijk’s looping shot, when rushing out in an attempt to close down Son Heung-Min and completely losing his focus at St James’ Park last season.
His eagerness to distribute the ball quickly with his famous sidewinder kicks also frequently resulted in the ball fizzing out of play near the halfway line. A few seconds to compose himself is all that is needed sometimes.
Pickford has, though, proven to be a quick learner and if he can improve his decision-making and concentration he will go a long way towards eradicating the kind of mistakes that many use as a stick to beat him with.
He is already one of the most athletic goalkeepers in the league and an excellent shot-stopper, highlighted by the fact that only Alisson and Ederson kept more clean sheets in the Premier League last season
For Evertonians, the sight of a sprawling Pickford denying Mohamed Salah in the Goodison derby in March went a long way towards erasing the memory of that crushing mistake at Anfield, especially as the two points Liverpool missed out that day on ultimately cost them the league.
It also showed he had already moved on from his mid-season slump and there is no reason why he cannot continue to improve this time around and eradicate those sloppy mistakes from his game.
Many people argued that Pickford’s erratic form was in part down to a lack of competition, with Maarten Stekelenburg (more from him later) only likely to deputise through injury. The arrival of Jonas Lossl therefore, while unlikely to threaten Pickford’s place, will certainly act as a reminder that there is a perfectly capable goalkeeper waiting in the wings should Pickford’s form nosedive. He is a full international with plenty of Premier League experience following two busy seasons in the Huddersfield goal. You are never going to get a world-class goalkeeper to come to the club and knowingly sit on the bench so someone of Lossl’s calibre is as solid a backup as you can hope for.
Given the pressure on Marco Silva to win a trophy this year (and the criticism he received for his cup team selections last season) it will be interesting to see whether Lossl is chucked in for EFL and/or FA Cup matches as the policy of having a ‘cup keeper’ has yielded mixed results in recent years.
At 36, Maarten Stekelenburg’s best playing days are behind him and it seems he is content to see out the final year of his contract from the bench. The arrival of Lossl means he is unlikely to see much first-team action bar an injury crisis, but he would be a relatively safe pair of hands should the worst happen, while his vast experience could prove valuable on the training pitch.
State of the position
Goalkeeper is arguably Everton’s strongest position heading into the new season in terms of ability and depth. Pickford is the undisputed No.1 with plenty of room to improve while Lossl and Stekelenburg are experienced and capable back-ups.