Why Jordan Pickford was key to Sunderland's draw against West Brom

Sunderland managed to grab a late draw against West Brom on Saturday, but if it wasn’t for Jordan Pickford, the visitors would have been out of sight by then. David Moyes looked to sign a goalkeeper during the late stages of the transfer window due to the injury suffered by Vito Mannone. Unfortunately for the club, they couldn’t complete a deal for one that could come straight into the first team. This has presented an opportunity to young English keeper Jordan Pickford and he has impressed over the last month. After making a mistake to lose the points at Southampton, he has recovered well and that shows us a lot about his mentality. He is raw around the edges, but he has the attributes to be a very good player and this experience will only benefit him.

The young goalkeeper was the man-of-the-match on Saturday as Sunderland had to hang in for a point. It has been a baptism of fire for Pickford since coming into the first team as the defence is a mess and they are conceding chances in every match. Yesterday, West Brom had 17 shots, ten more than the home side, which highlights how poor Sunderland were once more. The Baggies aren’t known for dominating matches and these stats will cause concern on Wearside. They have been slow starters in recent seasons, but this year feels different as the performances have been awful.

 

His reading of the game is very good and he understands what is unfolding in front of him. It is difficult for a goalkeeper to play behind a struggling defence, especially when they are inexperienced themselves, but Pickford has done very well. He looks has been assured and he has been one of the few positives to emerge from this season for Sunderland.

Pickford made six saves during the match and kept his side in the match when the score was only 1-0. His reactions and positioning were superb, while the 22-year-old was able to push the ball to safety. Some young goalkeepers have weak wrists and parry the ball into dangerous areas, but Pickford couldn’t be accused of this yesterday. It is impressive how much his shot-stopping has improved over the last month, as he gains more experience at the highest level.

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His distribution is an area of the game where he could improve. It is crucial that he finds a team-mate more often than not, as it relieves the pressure on his side and allows Sunderland to push up the field. Yesterday, he finished the match with a 42% pass accuracy and this could be improved over the coming weeks. Pickford should avoid looking long as the team have Jermain Defoe up front and he is unlikely to dominate defenders in the air. If the Sunderland goalkeeper can increase this to around 60-70%, it could help his side launch more attacks.

It is still early in the career of Jordan Pickford, but he is staking a real claim to be the team’s first choice goalkeeper. Vito Mannone won’t be back for a while and if the 22-year-old continues to keep his side in matches, it will be difficult for David Moyes to drop him from the starting eleven. There could also be an opportunity for him to gain an England call up in the coming months, especially as Gareth Southgate knows him well from the U21 setup. The future may not be bright for Sunderland, but it certainly is for Jordan Pickford.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Stuart MacFarlane

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