After Brendan Rodgers said Aaron Ramsdale is the best goalkeeper in the country, Sky Sports takes a look at whether the Arsenal man should be ahead of Jordan Pickford in Gareth Southgate’s thinking for England No 1…
Everton shot-stopper Pickford has been Southgate’s go-to man in goal for two major tournaments, as they reached the semi-final of the World Cup in 2018 and the final of the Euros last summer.
There were question marks over Pickford’s place in the starting line-up ahead of Euro 2020, but with Burnley’s Nick Pope less comfortable playing in Southgate’s system, which puts a big emphasis on building from the back, he stuck with the Everton man who subsequently reminded everyone just why he is England’s No 1.
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However, Ramsdale’s form at Arsenal this season has created more doubt about whether Pickford is the best option for England – and with Southgate picking his squad for friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast on Thursday, the noise around his goalkeeper selection is growing.
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Brendan Rodgers: “For me he’s the best English keeper at the moment. He’s top. His progression since he came to Arsenal, he’s dealt with that really well. He’s got a really nice calmness to his game.”
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Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers says Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale is the best English goalkeeper at the moment and praised his save from Harvey Barnes’ header.
Jamie Redknapp: “What I like about Ramsdale is he ticks every box. He’s not just a good goalkeeper, he played a pass into Thomas Partey in midfield against Leicester that Glenn Hoddle couldn’t have played. It was just unbelievable.
“The modern-day goalkeeper has to be good on the ball and also a great goalkeeper, who makes big saves. I think Ramsdale needs a chance [with England]. He’s special.”
Micah Richards: “Ramsdale definitely needs a chance, but Jordan Pickford has not let Gareth Southgate down. So, it is always a difficult decision to make.
“Yes, we probably should go on form and at the moment, Ramsdale is the one in form, but it is always difficult when we are here talking about and the manager has got trust in a player.
“When a manager has that trust in a player like Southgate has with Pickford, it is very difficult to change it.”
Jimmy Floyd Haselbaink: “The problem with Pickford, and I have always had that with him, is yes, he has been playing well and he has never really let England down, but always when I watch the England matches, it’s like I’m waiting for a mistake from him.
“I’m not English so I can watch the game a bit differently, and it feels like he has a mistake in him. I think Ramsdale is a better goalkeeper.”
Pickford reliable servant but Ramsdale could start
Sky Sports’ reporter Rob Dorsett:
“This is a difficult decision for Southgate and it comes down to a choice between form and experience. The England boss has been steadfast in his loyalty to Pickford, and with good reason.
“The Everton ‘keeper has been outstanding in international football, and at two major tournaments where England have made the semi-finals and a final.
Image: Pickford is an established part of the England group
“Pickford has never let England down – so, if Southgate judges him only on how he has played for his country, he is un-droppable.
“But Ramsdale’s form for Arsenal is now impossible to ignore. The stats show he is out-performing Pickford in whichever aspect the two men are compared.
“In the past, Southgate has given Pickford the nod over the likes of Sam Johnstone, Nick Pope and Alex McCarthy, highlighting his superior distribution. Pickford often starts England’s attacks with his pin-point passing and throwing.
“But this is an area where Ramsdale scores very highly too. He is so comfortable on the ball, and often finds himself acting as sweeper behind the Arsenal defence, or as a deep-lying playmaker.
“So it’s a conundrum for Southgate.
“Bear in mind England’s two matches later this month are friendlies, ahead of two big tournaments this year (the Nations League in the summer and the World Cup in the winter).
“It may well be that Ramsdale gets the nod against Switzerland and Ivory Coast at Wembley – but even if that happens, we shouldn’t assume he is ahead of Pickford in Southgate’s pecking order, when the competitive games begin.”
What do the stats say?
Sky Sports’ Zinny Boswell:
Ramsdale, whose sole international cap came in the 10-0 thrashing of San Marino in November, has ‘prevented’ more goals than any other English goalkeeper in the Premier League this season – only Jose Sa and David de Gea have prevented more.
The graphic below also shows that Pickford is the third-highest performing English goalkeeper in terms of goals prevented, behind Southampton’s Fraser Forster.
A direct comparison of Ramsdale and Pickford’s performances in the Premier League shows the Arsenal goalkeeper outperforms his England team-mate across every category aside from saves made.
The radar graphic, which highlights a lot of the same categories, demonstrates that Ramsdale is clearly outperforming Pickford in terms of distribution into the opposition half – an area of his game which could be pivotal to his chances of securing a place in Southgate’s team.
The figures below show Ramsdale is weaker at saving shots to his left, conceding nine of the 24 attempts, while on his right he has only let in three goals from 25 attempts on his goal. The Arsenal goalkeeper appears to be most vulnerable when the opposition target the bottom-left corner of his goal.
Meanwhile, Pickford, who has faced 36 more shots than Ramsdale in the league this season, has conceded almost half the shots to his bottom left – despite teams targeting his bottom-right corner more often.
The below graphics – red blobs are goals, sized by xG – highlight that Ramsdale’s bottom left does appear weakest, while Pickford has let some easier chances slip through to his right.
The graphic below shows where those shots were taken from and reveals Pickford has shipped a higher frequency of easier chances.
Both goalkeepers have lower passing accuracy due to their tendency to play long, ambitious passes. Ramsdale tends to go to the right channel far more than the left, while Pickford prefers to go centrally or to the left.
Could Ramsdale unseat Pickford for the World Cup?
Sky Sports’ Zinny Boswell on the Essential Football Podcast:
“He’s definitely been the best English goalkeeper performing in the Premier League this season, but – and it’s a big but – Jordan Pickford, despite the criticism he gets at Everton, has never let Gareth Southgate down.
“Before the Euros there were a lot of question marks over whether he should play, but he was pretty spotless at that tournament.
“It would be a massive call if come Qatar, Southgate says ‘on your bike’ and puts Ramsdale in goal. Any mistake would just be magnified, and everyone would be asking where Pickford.
“Saying that, I would just stress again that he’s definitely been the best English goalkeeper this season so it’s certainly up for debate.”
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