England’s case for a new number 1

Although Euro 2020 has been postponed, is it an opportunity for Gareth Southgate to reshuffle his squad and test out some new formations? More specifically to change the man wearing the number 1 shirt?

Originally published on ForeverSport

In 2018 the England squad achieved its best finish at a World Cup since winning it in 1966. Gareth Southgate and his men finished fourth at the World Cup held in Russia after losing 2-0 to Belgium in the 3rd/4th playoff. Regardless, this rousing performance left high expectations for England’s Euro’s campaign which was due to commence in June 2020.

Southgate now has quite some time to decide on his Euro’s squad as the tournament has been postponed to June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This postponement will allow Southgate to play a few more friendlies before he announces his final squad. These games will likely see a few changes made to the starting 11, to find the perfect combination of players that could launch England to their first international trophy in 55 years.


Southgate has had a few selection headaches in the past. Vardy or Kane upfront? Should Rashford play up front or on the right? Which midfield pairings work best behind them? To an extent, there have been debates about which centre-back pairing looks the strongest, between John Stones, Harry Maguire, Fikayo Tomori or Joe Gomez. Jack Grealish may have destroyed his dreams of an England first team call up after deliberately breaking coronavirus isolation guidelines on Sunday. Images of the Aston Villa captain being involved in a car crash emerged a day after the Villa man urged his social media following to stay at home to save the NHS.

Other decisions, such as who to put between the sticks, may not be as straight forward. Jordan Pickford proved his worth during England’s momentous World Cup campaign in Russia. Has he cemented himself as number 1? Even so, the likes of Dean Henderson and Nick Pope have come to unsettle the Evertonian’s position. The fate of the Premier League season is still in the balance. Hopefully, it will still be played to its completion which will allow the likes of Pope and Henderson to give Southgate more to think about over the summer break, if there is to be a summer break.

The question is, should Southgate be considering a change? Henderson has expressed his desire to play for his country as the chosen number one. He has also pulled out several impressive performances for Sheffield United that back up this call. The postponement has worked in Henderson and Pope’s favour, giving both keepers more time to impress the England boss.
Besides, the stats for the three players during the 2019/20 premier league season all put Henderson on top and Pickford out in third with Pope coming in second.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 02: Nick Pope of Burnley saves a shot from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Arsenal FC at Turf Moor on February 02, 2020 in Burnley, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

There are many different factors to consider when deciding which keeper has been more effective for their club. They cannot be judged solely on clean sheets alone. Clean sheets are not determined by the goalkeeper alone, there is a line of defensive players that affect this result. Burnley and Sheffield United both feature in the top six best defences in the Premier League this season. Alas it would be down to individual opinion as to which, out of the three players, has a better defensive wall in front of them but let’s lay the numbers out anyway.

One of the most damning stats for Pickford is the number of goals conceded, 46. That is more than double the number of goals that Henderson has allowed in which is only 22. Pope has quite a high number as well with 40 goals conceded so far.

A goalkeeper is the last line of defence and it would be ideal if it is a fantastic or clever strike that beats them rather than a personal error. Pickford leads this stat as well with 3 errors leading to goals, Pope isn’t any better with 2 and Henderson comes out on top again with only 1. Pope easily loses the penalties faced vs saved category, facing 4 and saving only 1. Henderson’s save success percentage is more than 14% higher than Pickford and 10% higher than Pope’s.

Pickford falls short in every contest against Pope and Henderson. Pope tops 2 categories however Henderson tops 4 categories. Excluding experience in major tournaments that some may value over any statistic. Henderson has proved himself throughout the season so far and does deserve to be a viable option to wear the number 1 shirt for England in 2021.

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