England’s No 1 jersey is set to be hotly contested as we count down to next summer’s World Cup, but who should Gareth Southgate turn to? Michael Hincks takes a look.
After an unbeaten qualifying campaign, Southgate has sought demanding warm-up games in preparation for his tournament bow as England’s senior manager.
Tuesday’s friendly with Brazil comes four days after a 0-0 draw with world champions Germany at Wembley, while clashes with Italy and the Netherlands have been pencilled in for the new year.
Southgate faces plenty of selection headaches in the coming months, but none more so than who should start between the sticks in Russia. With seven months left until the World Cup kicks off, we examine his goalkeeping options…
The West Ham goalkeeper has remained Southgate’s first choice since the former England defender took interim charge of in October 2016. Of the nine World Cup Qualifiers Southgate oversaw, Hart started eight – he was only rested for the final Group F game as an experimental XI beat Lithuania 1-0.
Southgate’s starting goalkeeper Date Match Goalkeeper (On as sub) Oct ‘16 England 2-0 Malta – Qualifier Joe Hart Oct ‘16 Slovenia 0-0 England – Qualifier Joe Hart Nov ’16 England 3-0 Scotland – Qualifier Joe Hart Nov ’16 England 2-2 Spain – Friendly Joe Hart (Tom Heaton) Mar ’17 Germany 0-0 England – Friendly Joe Hart Mar ’17 England 2-0 Lithuania – Qualifier Joe Hart Jun ’17 Scotland 2-2 England – Qualifier Joe Hart Jun ’17 France 3-2 England – Friendly Tom Heaton (Jack Butland) Sep ’17 Malta 0-4 England – Qualifier Joe Hart Sep ’17 England 2-1 Slovakia – Qualifier Joe Hart Oct ’17 England 1-0 Slovenia – Qualifier Joe Hart Oct ’17 Lithuania 0-1 England – Qualifier Jack Butland Nov ’17 England 0-0 Germany – Friendly Jordan Pickford
In 11 Premier League appearance this season, Hart has conceded 23 goals, keeping three clean sheets for the Hammers, who currently sit 18th in the table.
Stuart Pearce spoke last month of how Hart needs more nastiness as England goalkeeper in his bid to hold off Butland and Pickford. Following Pearce’s appointment to David Moyes’ backroom staff on Sunday, he will now be able to impart that wisdom first-hand on the 30-year-old.
Butland was Southgate’s go-to goalkeeper for the so-called experimental side against Lithuania, which also saw England switch to three at the back. However, injury has ruled the Stoke goalkeeper out of contention for the friendly with Brazil, as he faces up to six weeks on the sidelines with a broken finger.
The injury will bring an end to Butland’s ever-present start to Stoke’s league campaign, where he has conceded 22 times and kept two clean sheets in 11 games.
England’s goalkeepers – League form 2017/18 Goalkeeper Games Goals Conceded Clean Sheets Save % Jack Butland 11 22 2 54% Fraser Forster 11 11 4 72% Angus Gunn 16 20 7 67% Joe Hart 11 23 3 57% Tom Heaton 4 4 1 67% Jordan Pickford 11 22 1 61% Nick Pope 8 5 5 88% Jordan Pickford
Everton’s £30m man started between the sticks against Germany on Friday night, making four saves to shut out the world champions on his England debut.
The performance could well leave a lasting impression on Southgate, who also coached Pickford at England Under-21s level.
“I remember Jordan’s first couple of under-21 games and we were thinking he was quick around the goal, makes saves,” Southgate said after the Germany match.
“Goalkeepers either save the ones they should and not much else or make match-winning saves. He’s certainly made really important saves and, with his feet, gives the team a different dimension as well. He can be really pleased with his performance.”
The Southampton goalkeeper has been in and out of the England squad under Southgate, while he has not added to his six caps since starting in the 2-1 friendly win over Australia before Euro 2016.
Forster has come under fire for a number of performances for Southampton this season, but manager Mauricio Pellegrino continues to back the goalkeeper, who has kept four clean sheets and conceded just 11 goals in 11 league games. His impressive rate of a goal conceded every 90 minutes is double that of Butland (45), Hart (43) and Pickford (45).
Tom Heaton – Nick Pope
The duo are no package deal, but surgery to Tom Heaton’s shoulder has allowed Nick Pope come to the fore at Burnley, and he is certainly capitalising on his time in the starting XI.
Pope features in England’s strongest XI based on Sky Sports Fantasy Football stats. He has more than double the points of both Butland and Pickford, and 19 more than Hart, having kept four clean sheets and collected two man-of-the-match awards since Heaton’s injury.
Heaton will be desperate to reclaim the No 1 jersey at Turf Moor. The timeline of his return is uncertain, but it will be tough for the 31-year-old to make the plane to Russia if he cannot oust Pope.
Southgate has called up Angus Gunn to his senior England squad for Tuesday’s friendly with Brazil as cover for the injured Butland.
Gunn was back-up to Pickford during the summer’s U21 European Championships but has become first-choice since the Everton goalkeeper’s promotion to the senior ranks.
The 21-year-old is on a season-long loan at Carrow Road from Manchester City and has started in all 16 of Norwich’s Championship games so far this season, conceding 20 goals and keeping seven clean sheets.
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