Jordan Pickford vs Robin Olsen: Assessing Who Should be Everton's Number 1 This Season

02 November 2020 09:15

A good goalkeeper can make or break a team at any level; be it an amateur team trying to make it to semi-professional standard, or a fallen giant who've reached a Champions League for the first time in years, the goalkeeper sets the tone and can ultimately dictate the success of a team to a degree.

Everton are a team who have spent stupendous money since 2016 under Farhad Moshiri's ownership in a bid to get to the elite level, including £30m on Jordan Pickford in 2017, but they've got very little to show for it.

Things are finally moving in the right direction with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm and signings being made more accurately, but their goalkeeping department is holding them back. Pickford has been underperforming for a while now which prompted the Toffees into the loan signing of Robin Olsen from Roma.

Having the two fight it out for the number one spot in a Tim-Howard-on-a-pole wrestling match would be immensely fun, but also unlikely. Here's a look at some key goalkeeper attributes and how the two compare head to head.


Distribution

Pickford is comfortable with the ball at his feet | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Distribution is an increasingly important component of a goalkeeper's style of play as football continues to modernise. There have always been goalkeepers with excellent distribution, but the attribute is now something more universally expected as a minimum.

One key strength of Pickford's game has always been his distribution. He has a strong kicking technique that allows him to punt the ball swiftly into the opposition final third with accuracy when he sees it necessary. And while it hasn't quite been there this season due to rock-bottom confidence, it generally an impressive part of his game.

According to whoscored.com, he averaged 31.2 passes per game and attempted 7.7 long balls per game last season in the Premier League, while Olsen had a lower average involvement of 25 passes per game and six long balls per game.

Although Olsen only played 17 times in Serie A compared to Pickford's 38 league appearances, the England man is clearly more competent with the ball at his feed than Olsen, when he's in form.


Shot Stopping

Olsen is at full stretch to push the ball out of play | Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Pickford struggles with shots put on him from outside the 18-yard box - massively. Since the start of the 2016/17 season, no keeper has conceded more shots from outside the area in the Premier League than Pickford (32). His work inside the box hasn't been clean this season either, which has resulted in him conceding nine goals in six league games and keeping just one clean sheet.

Olsen looked much more composed when dealing with long-range efforts in Serie A last season. He only conceded one from outside the box and was the busier keeper of the two during his 17 Serie A appearances on loan at Cagliari, displaying much more composure than Pickford. Standing at 6'4 too, he has a solid three inches of height on Pickford which he uses to his advantage to fill more of the goal.

However, Pickford is renowned for his goalkeeping ability from close range, developing a reputation as a shot stopper rather than perhaps an all-round goalkeeper. The England number one has made on average 1.8 saves in the penalty area per game already so far this season.

This one's too close to call.


Handling

Pickford fumbled a cross against Brighton which led to a goal | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Pickford hasn't been much use in this department recently either. When he does get himself behind a shot, be it from long range or inside the box, he doesn't tend to hold it. If he can tip it out of play or out of the danger area then he tends to opt for that.

It seems to stem from a lack of concentration and focus at times, which again hasn't been helped by his wavering confidence with poor performances stacking up. 30-year-old Olsen, again, is an improvement on Pickford in this area. He's more in command of his box and will claim crosses and corners thanks to his height, while also holding onto shots more comfortably than Pickford.

That isn't too difficult a task, truth be told, but Olsen again edges this one.


Positioning

Olsen uses his imposing size well to fill his goal | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Perhaps this is why Pickford struggles to make it to some shots and fails to hold onto the ball at times: positioning is key and can make very difficult saves routine to the untrained eye.

Poor positioning sets a goalkeeper up for poor shot stopping, which is exactly the case for Pickford. The 26-year-old never quite has a composed and suitable set position and finds himself scrambling to shots all too often, or getting swallowed on crosses and corners.

Olsen, a much more traditional keeper, struggles much less positionally. His bigger frame permits him to reach shots and cover more ground, admittedly, but he's much more composed and set in his goal to deal with an incoming ball.

Again, it's not really up for debate. You only have to watch Pickford over the last 12 months to realise that his positioning is seriously lacking. Olsen is again superior.


Reliability

Neither keeper has stood out as the most reliable in recent seasons | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Pickford earned the move from Sunderland to Everton in 2017 due to the Black Cats' ability to rely on him consistently despite them being relegated.

He's never quite found that same level of consistency in Merseyside, but he did once look like a goalkeeper who could be relied upon to pull out a catalogue of saves when the going gets tough. The Sweden international is in a similar boat, however; despite looking promising for Roma early on, a lack of confidence killed his chances and ultimately saw him shipped out on loan.

A largely poor spell in Rome means he's unlikely to return there, because they don't feel as though they can depend on him. The two are very similar in the sense that having confidence seemingly makes or breaks their game entirely - more so than other goalkeepers - thus it's hard to draw a definitive winner here.


Overall

Sweden's number one comes out on top and deserves to start for Everton | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Looking at the official scores, Everton should be moving forward this season with Robin Olsen, who wins 2-1.

While Pickford - the younger keeper of the two - excels in modern aspects of the game such as distribution and his athleticism, his basic goalkeeping attributes need serious work.

Olsen isn't the most modern keeper, but he makes good on his size and is confident in areas which should be considered bread and butter for a goalkeeper. Pickford often lets his emotions affect his performance, too, which is glaringly obvious, while Olsen holds more composure being the senior head.

Ancelotti needs to pick a keeper and stick with them for a short while in order to stabilise his side's wobbling confidence, and that keeper should be the Swedish loanee.


Source: 90min