England’s Number One?

Most of the International sides travelling to Russia this summer know who their first choice goalkeeper will be, but nothing could be further from the truth in England’s case. Joe Hart, Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope are all competing to see who should start at this summer’s World Cup. Against Lithuania we saw Jack Butland take up the position between the sticks despite Joe Hart having seemingly  cemented his position as the number one during the past 6 years.  The West Ham stopper having played 9 of England’s 10 World Cup Qualifiers.  I’ve decided to put myself in Gareth Southgate’s shoes and would like to know what you guys think too…

To some Joe Hart is still the obvious choice being England’s most experienced keeper (and by some distance). For others, the 33 goals he’s conceded in just 15 EPL games this season is, in fact, reason enough for Hart to miss out altogether. That’s far too many goals conceded in not nearly enough games. I personally rate Joe Hart as both a goalkeeper and a personality and believe that on his day he can be one of England’s key men.  Unfortunately, those kind of days I’m referring to seem nothing more than a distant memory.  Of course, experience counts for a lot, although playing consistently throughout a season counts for even more. It may sound contradictory that I would start both John Stones and Jack Wilshere, but that’s because ball playing centre backs and creative deep lying central midfielders are few and far between for England. The same cannot be said for the goalkeeper situation. That all being said I’d take Joe Hart to Russia and he’d be my substitute keeper.

Nick Pope has kept more clean sheets and conceded fewer EPL goals than any of the other 3 goalkeepers in Gareth Southgate’s latest squad. Looking at form alone it’s difficult to see past Pope considering he’s saved just over 80% of the shots on target he has faced in the league. The argument against him is a lack of experience having only made his EPL debut a few months ago, but I’d take him to Russia to get the feel of being around the squad. In my opinion this is one World Cup too soon for the Burnley man to be a considered a starter.

Of the 4 goalkeepers Jack Butland is the most capable of both producing outstanding saves but also the most intermittent in his form. There is just something I don’t trust about Jack Butland and that’s why I’d leave him out of the squad travelling to Russia. Last weekend he was culpable for both Everton’s goals, which supported my thinking that he would be the one to be watching England from home soil.

Jordan Pickford, for all intents and purposes, is still an inexperienced goalkeeper. Last season, while at Sunderland, Pickford made more saves than any other keeper in the EPL (118). That form hasn’t deserted him as he tops this season’s stats for Everton (95). Not just a shot-stopper, Pickford has by far the best distribution of the 4 men in contention. England, have to play counter-attacking football with speed due to the players at their disposal. In my opinion, that’s where you need a keeper with Pickford’s ability to distribute the ball effectively, to kick start (literally) the counter attack. Pep Guardiola swears by keeper’s that can play, which is good enough reason for me. When shot-stopping between the competitors is reasonably similar, the distribution factor is why I believe Jordan Pickford should start as England’s first choice goal-keeper.

Words: @Alavi_SSN

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