David Moyes has been cajoling and praising players publicly this week in a bid to lift morale and focus minds following Monday night’s miserable showing. Yesterday there was a message for Lamine Kone, and today it was the turn of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with Moyes saying:
"He looks as if he’s got real potential to go on and become a first-class goalkeeper."
The Sunderland boss has been quick to reassure his young ‘keeper that the stats from his baptism of fire do not fully reflect his performances.
Pickford has now started four Premier League games and one FA Cup tie in his senior Sunderland career. In those games he has conceded thirteen goals and has yet to be on the winning side.
Questions would ordinarily be asked of a goalie letting in an average of 2.6 goals per game, but aside from allowing a Jay Rodriguez shot to squirm underneath him at Southampton, it’s difficult to build a case of blame for many of the others.
If the ‘goals conceded’ and ‘games won’ columns don’t tell the full picture, other stats are reflective of an encouraging start to life in the Premier League.
In his two games this season, Jordan made twelve saves from seventeen shots on goal, so a save ratio of 71%. That compares favourably with other Premier League goalkeepers, putting him about mid-table in terms of goals saved from shots on target and streets ahead of the likes of Mignolet of Liverpool (55%) and Chelsea’s Courtois (42%). So far, the stand out performers have been Maarten Stekelenburg of Everton (90%) and Ben Foster for West Brom at 88%.
Certainly the three conceded against Everton on Monday night were not Jordan’s fault. Some have suggested he might have been a little quicker to close Romelu Lukaku down for the third, but watching it again it’s harsh to pinpoint anything he did that was technically wrong.
David Moyes said of his performance:
"I actually think Jordan will be pleased … and he should be pleased because I thought he played well. He handled well and he did his bit."
But Moyes’ praise for Pickford ahead of tomorrow’s match against Tottenham also carried a warning that the going is unlikely to get any easier, saying "he is going to get worked, that's for sure, so he's going to be put under pressure".
The signing of Michael Simoes Domingues, aka Mika, certainly adds extra fruitiness to a goalkeeping sideshow which seems to run perpetually at Sunderland.
For all the dismal players we have turned over in the Premier League era, the position of goalkeeper has consistently been one of strength. The likes of Gordon, Sorensen, Fulop and Mignolet preceded the recent battle for the jersey between Vito Mannone and Costel Pantillimon.
The return of Mannone from injury may well precipitate a January exit for one of Moyes’ three senior ‘keepers. Mika, Mannone and Pickford are a threesome not required once all are fit. Certainly with Moyes shaving fat from the rump of his squad, carrying three senior goalies seems an unlikely prospect once the January transfer window opens.
With Mika, fresh from being number one at Boavista in Portugal’s top league breathing down his neck, Sunderland’s manager qualified his praise for Pickford with a warning which will linger into upcoming games:
"It was important that he came through this game well because he played well at Southampton, but let one slip and maybe if another one had gone in we would have had to look at him a bit closer."
The message is clear for the 22-year old goalkeeper going into Sunday’s clash at White Hart Lane - make a mistake or two and we’ll consider a change; and there was also a hint that Moyes does not consider him to be physically where he might need to be for a sustained run as number one:
"He needs to continue to up his level, he needs to continue to change his body and his frame. There’s a lot of work the goalkeepers, especially young goalkeepers, have to put in in the gym."