Everton completed their first signing of what is expected to be a busy transfer window with Thursday’s capture of Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for a club record fee of £25 million.
The deal could rise to £30 million including add-ons, with the 23-year-old signing a five-year contract as Everton manager Ronald Koeman looks to strengthen an area of weakness for his side last term.
Speaking to the club’s official website, Koeman expressed his delight in securing one of the best young goalkeepers in the country:
“I’m really pleased we’ve made what I’m sure will be a significant signing for Everton Football Club. Jordan is a very talented young professional who also has a real hunger for success, and that’s important for us as we now look to make further progress in the seasons ahead. We’ve seen the quality he has through his performances in the Premier League last season and, given his young age, we’re sure he will get even better.”
Pickford joined Sunderland’s academy at the age of eight, progressing through the age groups to sign a two-year scholarship in 2010.
A year later, Pickford agreed his first professional contract with the Black Cats and was then sent out on several different loan spells.
He made 17 league appearances for National League side Darlington during the 2011/12 season before playing 12 times for Alfreton Town in 2012/13.
Pickford’s development moved up a notch the following season, making 12 appearances for League Two outfit Burton Albion before ending the campaign on loan at League One side Carlisle United, keeping seven clean sheets in 18 outings.
The 2014/15 season saw Pickford make 33 appearances for League One club Bradford City before he had a final loan spell at Championship outfit Preston North End in 2015/16.
That move proved to be a real breakthrough for Pickford, who registered ten shut-outs in 24 league appearances.
He returned to Sunderland on December 31, 2015, and made his Black Cats debut in a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup.
His Premier League bow soon followed, in a 4-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur, and he was handed a second league start on the final day against Watford.
Pickford then established himself as a Premier League player last season, making 29 league appearances.
He did concede 50 goals, keeping just four clean sheets, but was one of the few Sunderland players to emerge with any credit as the club were relegated to the Championship.
Pickford has represented England at every level from U16s to U21s and was part of the team that won the 2016 Toulon Tournament.
He received his first call-up to the senior squad last October, although he is still to make his debut.
After emerging as a fantastic value option in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) last term, available at just 4.0 at the outset, Pickford will be expected to kick on as Everton’s first-choice keeper.
The ability to pick up save points and additional bonus was at the heart of his appeal, but his situation with the Toffees will be very different.
Last season, Pickford ranked first for minutes per save (19.33) and minutes per recovery (7.37) among FPL goalkeepers who made a minimum of five starts.
Recoveries are a key component of the Bonus Points System (BPS), an area where Pickford thrived – he ranked fourth for bonus points among FPL goalkeepers with nine.
But moving to Everton – who finished seventh in the Premier League and conceded only 44 goals (compared to 69 for Sunderland) – Pickford will face a different challenge in terms of how he picks up Fantasy points.
Last term, the Black Cats faced more shots (676) and shots on target (248) than any other side, compared to 447 and 148 respectively for Koeman’s team.
The difference in the numbers is stark, highlighting the extra protection Pickford will have in front of him next season.
Ashley Williams, Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori offer plenty of experience in central defence for the Toffees, while Koeman looks set to further strengthen in that area this summer, with Burnley’s Michael Keane a favoured target.
Everton also boast one of the best defensive midfield players in the league in Idrissa Gueye, who ranked first for tackles among FPL midfielders in 2016/17, with 186, and second for interceptions (83). His partnership with Morgan Schneiderlin could be a key one for the Toffees next season.
It all means that Pickford will rely more on clean sheets to be a success in FPL, with his number of saves likely to decline.
While Koeman swapped between Maarten Stekelenburg and Joel Robles last season, Everton still managed an impressive 13 clean sheets.
The pair made 19 starts apiece, with Robles averaging a save every 32.15 minutes and Stekelenburg 40.10, although both trailed Pickford by some distance.
The pair also trailed in terms of minutes per recovery, with Robles averaging one every 9.75 minutes and Stekelenburg 10.27.
As was the case with save points, the importance of shut-outs to Pickford’s Fantasy potential will be heightened with a drop-off in bonus points appearing on the cards.
Robles and Stekelenburg were handed starting prices of 5.0 in FPL last term and that looks likely to be the minimum mark for Pickford, given that only four teams kept more clean sheets than Koeman’s side last season.
With Seamus Coleman out injured until at least next year, Fantasy managers will be keeping a keen eye on who will start the season at right-back for the Toffees.
Mason Holgate and Jonjoe Kenny currently appear the frontrunners, and should Koeman decide to trust the two youngsters and not bring in a more senior option, it’s one of those two that could provide the cheapest and most attractive route into the Everton backline.
But the addition of Pickford should boost the prospects of the Toffees’ rearguard.
His agility and shot-stopping have marked him out at this early stage of his career, and with an experienced defence in front of him, Pickford looks poised to be a key factor in FPL once again following his breakthrough campaign.