We continue our review of the past Everton season, in which each department will be recapped and rated. Next up: Goalkeepers.
Appearances - 42, Clean sheets - 10, Yellow Cards - 1, Red Cards - 0
When assessing Jordan Pickford’s season, those on the outside looking in will likely focus on one moment – you know which one.
Pickford’s clumsy lunge at Virgil van Dijk in the opening stages of October’s Merseyside derby was undoubtedly one of the pivotal moments of the season, especially for Liverpool. It was a terrible tackle and symptomatic of Pickford’s often chaotic, reactionary approach to goalkeeping - steaming in all guns blazing, ready to take out whatever is in his vicinity.
Yet the hysterical reaction to it was also way over the top, from rival fans and, sadly, certain sections of the media. Describing it as an ‘assault’ and calling for a ban as long as Van Dijk’s recovery were and still are ludicrous, and the controversy followed Pickford around for several months.
It wasn’t the first time the 27-year-old has been guilty of a lack of judgement and his worrying habit of making at least one mistake per game persisted into the winter, giving us all a near-heart attack whenever he went up to claim a high cross in the penalty area.
The presence of Robin Olsen meant Carlo Ancelotti could rotate his goalkeepers where necessary, but the Toffees boss largely stayed loyal to the England international even when those outside the confides of Goodison Park and Finch Farm were out to get him. That loyalty was rewarded with a quietly effective second half of the campaign, only briefly disrupted by a side strain in early spring, meaning he was one of a few players to emerge from the closing weeks of the season with any credit.
Pickford revealed earlier this year that he was consulting a sports psychologist to improve his form and that he was in “a brilliant place” mentally. That is evident in his more mature performances and perhaps a sign the sloppy mistakes that littered his early Toffees career are now behind him.
It also means doubts over Pickford’s number one position with both club and country is assured ahead of a huge summer for the Three Lions.
Grade - B
Appearances - 11, Clean sheets - 3, Yellow Cards - 1, Red Cards - 0
Robin Olsen proved a steady if unspectacular deputy. His calm demeanour was at times a timely antidote to Pickford’s erraticism, though he never really did enough to challenge for a regular spot in the side.
The one error of note came at Old Trafford when his feet became rooted in the turf like they were in treacle, meaning he couldn’t dive to stop Scott McTominay’s header, though it can hardly be called a howler.
There also has to be a degree of sympathy for the Swede when he and his family were the victim of an armed robbery at their home in March, a deeply upsetting and unsettling experience I’m sure.
Rumours suggested Ancelotti was pursuing a second loan deal for the 31-year-old, who has two years remaining on his contract with Roma. However, the Italian’s abrupt departure has thrown all that up into the air.
With more pressing transfer priorities elsewhere, Olsen would perhaps be a reliable cost-effective option that would allow the club to focus funds on other targets. A lot will rest though on who will be sitting in the Goodison dugout.
Grade - B
Appearances - 3, Clean sheets - 1, Yellow Cards - 0, Red Cards - 0
I suppose this could be considered something of a breakthrough season for Joao Virginia. He made his senior Toffees debut against Salford in the EFL Cup in September and his Premier League debut as a substitute against Burnley in March. The following week he started an FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City.
He did not disgrace himself in any game and that represents tangible progress after his difficult loan at Reading last year, though it seems doubtful that he will be pushing for a regular first-team spot any time soon.
Another Championship loan will be the best next step for his development.
Grade - C