Jordan Pickford is Now One of the World’s Best – and Here is Why

Jordan Pickford is Now One of the World’s Best – and Here is Why

Jordan Pickford kept his first clean sheet of the World Cup against Sweden. These were the important saves from the 2-0 win.

Diving Save from Marcus Berg’s Header three Minutes after Half Time

You look at where the one weakness is in England’s defence and it’s the relatively small full-backs defending far post crosses. I think a lot of Sweden’s play was deep crosses aimed at Ashley Young or Kieran Trippier because they knew they wouldn’t get much change out of the other three defenders. Sweden managed to get one right in that instance but those moments turn games and that one was a game defining save. If that chance had gone in, it might have been a very different match and I think it epitomised Jordan’s performance.

Berg’s header came in and Jordan used his feet to push off the deck and every ounce of his body is going through the ball at that moment, which gives him the ability to use his hands to push it away from danger. That strength comes from everywhere. From the ankles, through your legs, through your hips – they call it a triple extension – everything goes through the ball. Your hands are not soft exactly but you need to use the strength in your body to be able to utilise the muscles in your hand to manipulate the shot and he manipulated it very well.

Jordan does strength, power and agility work in training, on and off the pitch, and bear in mind how much force there can be on shots, you’re meeting the ball on your line and not just having to stop it but completely redirect it. Unlike Robin Olsen, the Sweden goalkeeper, for Harry Maguire’s goal, the one advantage Jordan had was of knowing that there were only two people – Berg and Young – who can head it. That’s an advantage compared to the ball into a scrummage that Olsen had to deal with.

Tipping over Berg’s shot in the 72nd minute

All the power for that save had to come from his feet up and he was using the ground as a lever to give him enough force to get the ball over the crossbar. Jordan was set perfectly for that save and is very good at that – his positioning, his footwork. He’s got a very good goalkeeper coach at Everton, Martyn Margetson, who I worked at West Ham United, and Martyn is fantastic on the detail of being set and being ready to react, with both feet on the ground at the right time.

It doesn’t always come off, but if you’re narrowing your stance, if your not too wide so you can react either way, you improve your chances and Jordan got it spot on there. The position of Maguire directly in front of him didn’t make it any easy. Sometimes all you see is the flash of a boot or a yellow sock and all of a sudden the shot is coming but it goes down to the fundamental basics before then of being in the right position, being set and giving yourself that chance. Strikers can make it a lot harder for goalkeepers in those instances just by their positioning.

Fernando Torres, for example, was fantastic at Liverpool at hiding behind the centre-halves when a cross came in and then running across the defender and as a goalkeeper you never really pick them up. I remember playing at Anfield with West Ham and Torres scored a hat-trick and for one of the goals he ran across Anton Ferdinand. I’m shouting, ‘Clear it Anton’ but because the defenders are static the forwards have an advantage since they’re at full tilt and Torres hit this ball which I didn’t even see. I was still telling Anton to clear it as the ball flew in. So as a goalkeeper you are trusting yourself to be in the right place at the right time and being set, as Jordan was there.

Denying Viktor Claesson low to his right from 10 yards in the 62nd minute

The shot was the culmination of a really good move from Sweden and again, coming when it did, that was a big save at a big moment. It wasn’t a game defining save like the one from Berg’s header but the lads will have been so grateful to have still had that two goal cushion at that time in the game. It was a game settling moment for England. That was Sweden’s best move and they still didn’t score – it was a real pin in the balloon for them.

Overall Performance

The way England want to play, Jordan’s distribution is key. He can hit it so far and so accurately – there are plenty who are simply not physically or technically capable of doing so – that at times he’s looking for Harry Kane only 10, 15 yards from the Sweden box. The opposition defenders are running back and because they’re on the back foot their clearing headers don’t go as far. That’s a tremendous weapon to have because you’ve suddenly got Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli or Henderson picking up the second ball 20 yards into the opposition half and the game is spread in your favour.