There has been plenty of chatter about Jordan Pickford in recent months and it won’t be slowing down after Saturday’s Merseyside derby.
He has been in the headlines for the incident which forced Virgil van Dijk off in the first half, and the knee injury sustained by the Dutchman seems set to keep him out for months.
That must be analysed distinctly from his performance in the match, which was mixed.
For both elements, criticism will come his way, but where the challenge on van Dijk is concerned, it will likely be more stinging.
This is too much now. I’ve listened to Chris Sutton’s red top sensationalist reaction and now this? Keane admitted his intent and this comparison isn’t going to help the abuse already being hurled at him. Just put him in a police lineup of notorious murderers and be done with it. https://t.co/HimaGYGAMm
— David Preece (@davidpreece12) October 18, 2020
First things first, it is a red card challenge. For whatever reason – because they couldn’t check due to offside, or because they didn’t check – VAR didn’t give it.
But former Premier League referee Keith Hackett has called it ‘brutality’ in the Mirror, comparing it to Roy Keane’s challenge on Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001.
Pickford’s challenge was not made with same malicious intent, and it is important that distinction is made.
The England number one has taken a lot of flak in recent months – some of it justified – but the idea he went out to hurt van Dijk is a different kettle of fish entirely and undeserved.
Hopefully the Dutchman makes a speedy and full recovery.
It is fair to judge Pickford’s performance separately to that incident.
He made an outstanding save midway through the second half, with the score at 1-1. It was a real return to his agile best and a reminder of his quality.
But there’s no doubt he got away with one – again – in stoppage time. Pickford failed to stop Jordan Henderson’s shot, essentially looping it over his own head, and was saved by VAR once more.
Pickford must accept the criticism on that score – his performance – but it should not go too far over the incident with van Dijk.