The Blues are believed to have lined up Jordan Pickford as a potential replacement for Thibaut Courtois, should the Chelsea ‘keeper leave for Real Madrid.
Courtois has just one year remaining on his current deal and has said that he is willing to let his contract run down and leave on a free next summer – something Chelsea will be extremely reluctant to let happen. Although Real are some way off striking a deal for the Blues’ stopper, the Londoners appear to be open to letting him go if they can find a suitable replacement.
Over the last few weeks, Chelsea have been linked with a number of transfer targets to replace their number one. Former Roma ‘keeper Alisson Becker was believed to be the new boss Maurizio Sarri’s primary target, but he opted to join Liverpool instead. At the start of the week, the Blues were thought to be eyeing Kasper Schmeichel and Jack Butland as potential replacements for Courtois, but now England and Everton number one Pickford has emerged at the top of the club’s wanted list.
The former Sunderland man joined Everton for £30m last summer and has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last couple of seasons, on his way to becoming one of the Premier League’s best shot-stoppers.
How does Pickford compare to Courtois?
There are two main advantages that Courtois has over Pickford, the main one being his experience. Despite only being two years older than the Everton man, Courtois has racked up 418 career appearances, compared to Pickford’s 237 outings. In the Chelsea number one’s career, he has kept 178 clean sheets – which is one every 2.3 games. An incredible record. Meanwhile, Pickford has kept the opposition from scoring on 71 occasions and does so every 3.3 matches. In fairness to Pickford, he hasn’t played for any so-called big clubs, while Courtois has played for two, in Chelsea and Atletico, and has one of the best defences in front of him at international level for Belgium.
Another huge advantage is Courtois’ height. The Belgian stands at 6′ 5″, while Pickford is four inches shorter at 6′ 1″. During the World Cup, Courtois caused controversy when he suggested that the England man was “too short to be an effective goalkeeper”, which he later backtracked on.
However, despite that height difference, Pickford appears to have been the more effective ‘keeper in the air last season. In the Premier League, the Everton stopper won 0.5 aerial duels a game, while Courtois only won 0.1 a game. That doesn’t mean the Chelsea man loses more, it just means that Pickford is more confident coming off his line to claim the ball. Those stats were backed up at the World Cup, where Pickford won 0.7 aerial duels a game, compared to Courtois’ 0.3.
In the Premier League last season, Courtois comes out on top on the main statistic for ‘keepers. Clean sheets. The Belgian kept 15 in 35 appearances, while Pickford registered ten after appearing in every game for Everton. Again though, Courtois had a better defence in front of him and the stats reflect that. Pickford was forced into making 3.2 saves per game, compared to the Chelsea man’s 2.1.
An important part of the modern ‘keeper’s game is to be good with your feet and there is no clear winner in this aspect. Pickford made 0.1 interceptions and 1.3 clearances last season, with Courtois making no interceptions and just 0.5 clearances. This suggests that Pickford is agiler and is quicker off his line than the big man. However, Courtois played 28.1 passes on average last with a completion rate of 70.4%, with 5.4 of those being long balls. Compare that to Pickford, who played 30.6 passes a game with a success rate of just 44.5, but remember, Sam Allardyce was his manager for most of the season – so 8.8 of those attempted passes were long balls.
A more realistic example of Pickford’s ability on the ball came at the World Cup, where he had a pass accuracy of 66.4% from 31.4 passes attempted – 8.6 of those were still long balls, though.
Would Pickford be a good signing for the Blues?
If Courtois is to leave for Real then Pickford, who seems to keep getting better each and every game, would be a solid replacement for the Belgian. Whilst the current Chelsea ‘keeper obviously has a lot more experience than the Everton man, he is a tough character, a great shot stopper and is not afraid to come off his line and claim the ball. Maurizio Sarri likes his sides to be organised and disciplined and Pickford, like he showed in the World Cup, is not be afraid to give his teammates a mouthful should they make a mistake. It has to be said, though, that any deal for the England and Everton number one will not come cheap.