Just when things were starting to look promising for Everton with the squad starting to settle after the transfer window shut and some encouraging performances to build on, the injury monster has reared its head again at Finch Farm.
The club reported yesterday in a short and terse statement that Jordan Pickford had suffered a thigh injury during his match-saving performance in last weekend’s Merseyside Derby against Liverpool, and would subsequently be out of action until the international break towards the end of this month. Other media sources are suggesting that his layoff might extend to even beyond that, something that will be causing Frank Lampard great anguish.
Pickford has been in stellar form for both club and country for at least the last couple of seasons, and has started this latest campaign in great form too. While he will be disappointed to have let in Luis Sinisterra’s equalizer at Leeds United at his near post, he has otherwise been impeccable in the first few games of the season, including the clean sheet against the Reds at Goodison on Saturday.
The Blues will not be without him for the upcoming trip to Arsenal this Sunday, and then at home against West Ham a week after that. He will miss England’s Nations League fixtures during the international break, and Everton are back in action after that on October 1st with a trip to Southampton, with their next game after that a home clash against Manchester United on Sunday the 9th.
If indeed the 28-year-old will miss a month, that is four crucial games that the Toffees will need backup keeper Asmir Begovic and the defence in front of him to stay watertight. The Gunners have been in free-scoring form this season until they were pegged back by United last weekend. David Moyes’ Hammers are off to a poor start and sit below the Blues in the table, but have enough quality in their squad to cause Lampard’s side trouble. The Saints have blown hot and cold as they usually do, but the Blues also have a very poor record on the South Coast in recent years. The Red Devils meanwhile have resuscitated their season under new coach Erik ten Hag and are looking a lot more dangerous than the last few times Everton have played them.
Begovic is himself returning from an ankle injury he sustained during the United States pre-season tour, and with third choice keeper Andy Lonergan also out until the international break with a knee ailment, Under-21 goalie Billy Crellin will be in line for a spot on the bench.
Everton desperately need to parlay a mixed start to the new campaign into points having garnered just four in six games with no wins as yet. This new hurdle is yet another test of not just Lampard’s managerial skills but also the newfound solidarity and unity of purpose within the squad under veteran leaders Conor Coady and James Tarkowski.