He may have looked assured in England’s first four games in the World Cup, but legendary ex-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hinted that Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is the one player who the Three Lions could upgrade on as they bid to end 58 years of hurt by winning the tournament in Russia.
Pickford was criticised by some for failing to save Adnan Januzaj’s strike for Belgium during the group stages, with Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois taking to social media to claim he could have prevented the goal.
Nevertheless, Pickford shone in the last 16 win against Colombia, making a wonderful save in the dying stages of normal time to deny Mateus Uribe’s long range effort and then stunningly palming away Carlos Barra’s penalty in the shootout.
Speaking as a pundit on BeIN Sports before Pickford’s heroics in England’s last-sixteen win, as reported by the Mirror, Wenger said: “The goalkeeper has no international experience, I have not seen anyone win the World Cup who has been decisive in some moments. We remember with [Fabian] Barthez, [Iker] Casillas or [Manuel] Neuer for Germany.”
“When you look at the teams who have won the World Cup you realise there is always a big goalkeeper in goal. We have no examples of a team who won the World Cup without a big, big massive goalkeeper. Pickford will maybe be one, but at the moment he lacks experience and they might pay for that.”
Whether Wenger has changed his mind on Pickford after his performance on Tuesday night remains to be seen, but the criticism is only likely to spur Pickford on to try to prove his doubters wrong, and he responded to Courtois’ jibes after the Colombia match by saying: “I don’t care if I’m not the biggest goalkeeper because it’s about being there in the moment and making the save, and I was.”