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David James backs ´exceptional´ England goalkeeper Pickford

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 21 May 2022

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Two of England’s best goalkeepers will face off as Arsenal host Everton on the last day of the Premier League season, and David James believes Jordan Pickford should remain number one for the Three Lions, for now.

Gunners shot-stopper Aaron Ramsdale is one of Pickford’s chief challengers for the England jersey, though the two have had mixed fortunes as the league season comes to a close on Sunday.

Pickford has been in tremendous form for Everton as they steered clear of relegation, confirming their top-flight status for another year with a dramatic 3-2 comeback against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Thursday.

Ramsdale and Arsenal look to have missed out on a Champions League place after recent defeats to Tottenham and Newcastle United, with Mikel Arteta’s side needing to beat Everton while hoping Norwich get the better of Spurs on the final day.

Speaking to Stats Perform, former Liverpool and England goalkeeper James said Ramsdale’s form this season will not have gone unnoticed, but described Pickford as “exceptional” whenever he has appeared for the national team.

“I don’t think Ramsdale’s club form will be ignored,” James said. “The way you get into England is by the good club form. However, Gareth Southgate is his England manager, not his club manager.

“It would be wonderful, I’m sure, for an international manager to look at his squad and everyone’s playing at the best of their abilities at the top of the league, [but] that’s never going to be the reality.

“I think what Jordan Pickford’s done for England has been exceptional. Absolutely exceptional. It’s not a case of not letting us down, he has been exceptional.”

James says Ramsdale would have to seize any chance that comes his way with England.

“If he’s to perform at the level that he’s been performing for Arsenal for England, then Gareth has a question of ‘actually now do I look at the overall picture?’,” James said.

Only five goalkeepers have made more saves than Pickford’s 117 in the Premier League this season, though he is 15th for save percentage (66.67), while Ramsdale is ninth (70.08).

In terms of expected goals on target (xGOT), Pickford has actually let in 0.9 more than expected, while Ramsdale has prevented 0.6 in that respect, though this is quite a way down from where it was heading into the last international break in late March (3.3).

James expects Pickford to remain England’s number one ahead of the World Cup later this year, barring a dip in form that could prompt a change of heart from Southgate.

“If he looks at the quality of the goalkeeper and how much they positively influence England’s performances, he may see a time to change,” James said. “But at the moment, Jordan Pickford has been exceptional and therefore he’s England’s number one.”

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