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3 Reasons why England should stick with Jordan Pickford rather than Dean Henderson | Euro 2020 watch

  • Should England replace Jordan Pickford with Dean Henderson? Here are 3 reasons why Gareth Southgate should stick with the Everton man.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
Modified 03 Mar 2020, 15:58 IST

Should England stick with Jordan Pickford, or replace him with Dean Henderson?
Should England stick with Jordan Pickford, or replace him with Dean Henderson?

As the clock ticks ever closer to the start of Euro 2020 – and with Gareth Southgate set to name his latest England squad for their upcoming friendly games with Italy and Denmark in a few weeks – one point of interest that’s been raised by many fans is the question around who should be the Three Lions’ first-choice goalkeeper.

Everton’s Jordan Pickford has been Southgate’s main man since November 2017, and while he’s been rested in a handful of friendly games, for the most part he’s been an ever-present fixture for England. And along the way, he’s always performed excellently, not really making any mistakes, and pulling out some true heroics in the 2018 World Cup during the penalty shoot-out with Colombia.

However, Pickford’s form for the Toffees has dipped somewhat in 2019-20 and he’s made a number of costly errors. On the other hand, his England understudy Dean Henderson – on loan at Sheffield United from Manchester United – has had a fantastic debut season in the Premier League, conceding just 25 goals – the second-least in the league behind leaders Liverpool.

So should Southgate look to replace Pickford with Henderson in time for the Euros? Or should he stick with the Everton man? Here are 3 reasons why he should keep his faith in Pickford.


#1 Pickford has never let England down yet

Since becoming their #1, Pickford has always performed excellently for England
Since becoming their #1, Pickford has always performed excellently for England

Fans might point at the amount of mistakes that Pickford has made in games for Everton as evidence that Southgate should look to replace him, but the truth is that those mistakes have never manifested themselves while the Toffees keeper has been on international duty. In fact, he’s never been anything but hugely reliable for the Three Lions.

Pickford’s international career started well in a friendly with Germany – he made a number of outstanding saves to keep the game at 0-0 – and since then he’s largely gone from strength to strength.

He was fantastic in the 2018 World Cup – becoming the first England goalkeeper to make a penalty shoot-out save since David Seaman in 1998. He was equally good in the UEFA Nations League in 2018-19, with his kicking ability setting up Marcus Rashford’s goal against Spain in the group stages and his penalty saving skills coming through to help England defeat Switzerland in the 3rd place playoff match. In fact, he was named in the Nations League Finals Team of the Tournament for his performances.

Also read: I'm not a normal lad, I'm an England footballer: Pickford on growing up

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So despite his errors for Everton, how can Southgate drop a player who’s never let him down on the big stage? Critics would suggest that the England manager should select his players on form – but then the same was said for Raheem Sterling, and look how he ended up repaying Southgate’s faith.

Henderson’s time will undoubtedly come – he’s 3 years younger than Pickford and could usurp him in the future – but for now, Southgate should stick with the keeper who’s never let him down yet.


#2 There may not be enough time to embed Henderson into the side

There might not be enough time to embed Henderson into the England side prior to the Euros
There might not be enough time to embed Henderson into the England side prior to the Euros

Perhaps the biggest reason for England sticking with Pickford rather than replacing him with Henderson is that there’s simply not enough time for the Sheffield United man to truly embed himself into the side and gain the experience needed to play in goal for England in the pressure-cooker environment that is a top international tournament.

Also read: Why Dean Henderson should be England's number one

England have two friendly matches later this month – against Italy and Denmark – and then face off against Austria and Romania just days before their first Euro 2020 game with Croatia. Even if Southgate were to play Henderson in all four, are four games really enough to prepare him for Euro 2020, where he could face top-level strikers like Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo – as well as a potential penalty shoot-out should England make the knockout stages?

The answer is simply no. It’s true that Pickford also didn’t have that much experience prior to the 2018 World Cup, with his debut coming in November 2017 against Germany and only 2 more starts prior to England’s opening game against Tunisia, but he’d also been named in the squad as far back as October 2016 and had far more Premier League experience to his name, too.

To risk such an inexperienced goalkeeper at Euro 2020 – even considering his excellent form for the Blades this season – would be a risk that’s simply not worth taking for Southgate and should he make that decision, it could well be one that might backfire.


#3 Henderson isn’t immune to mistakes of his own

Henderson made a costly error for England
Henderson made a costly error for England's U-21 side in last year's European Championship against Romania

Judging on statistics, it’d be easy to come to the conclusion that Pickford and Henderson are probably on a similar level when it comes to their goalkeeping skills. In the current Premier League season, Pickford has made 68 saves, has kept 6 clean sheets, made 12 high claims and 7 catches. Henderson meanwhile has made 66 saves, kept 9 clean sheets, made 12 high claims and 4 catches. Sure, Pickford has let in 42 goals – 20 more than Henderson – but it’s probably fair to blame that on the weakness of Everton’s defence compared to that of Sheffield United.

Where the two keepers do differ statistically is in individual errors and in passing ability. The former category clearly favours Henderson; according to PremierLeague.com, Pickford has made 3 individual errors leading to goals this season compared to just 1 from Henderson – and some fans would perhaps argue that the Everton man has made more mistakes that haven’t been taken into consideration by the statisticians.

In terms of passing though, Pickford is simply miles ahead; he’s made 874 passes this season, averaging 31.21 per game, with 231 accurate long balls to his name. Henderson on the other hand has made far less – 670 passes at an average of 25 per game – with only 181 accurate long balls.

This begs the question, what does Southgate favour more – the passing skills of Pickford or the seemingly more reliable abilities of Henderson? It’d be an interesting debate if it wasn’t for the fact that the Sheffield United man is also prone to major errors.

Everyone will remember his howler against Liverpool this season – when he somehow let a Gini Wijnaldum shot squirm through his grasp and into the net, handing the Reds a victory – but avid England fans will remember an equally bad mistake for the U-21 side in last year’s European Championships.

In a must-win group stage game against Romania, the match was balanced on a knife-edge at 2-2 before Henderson somehow let a shot from Florinel Coman go straight through him and into the net. England ended up losing the match 4-2 and crashed out of the tournament at the first hurdle despite going in as favourites – and when their players were slammed for perceived overconfidence, many fans felt Henderson was the biggest culprit.

So despite his good form for Sheffield United this season, the truth is that if you dig a little deeper, Henderson is as equally prone to errors as Pickford. And that means that Southgate should consider Pickford’s passing abilities as the most important attribute for his goalkeeper – and stick with the Everton man. 

Published 03 Mar 2020, 15:58 IST
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