Carlo Ancelotti faces Jordan Pickford situation again but has bigger Everton boost to come
In a difficult game against a top four rival Everton had the player with the ability to break the deadlock – and, regrettably, another who helped restore it.
Much went on in between the moment of brilliance from James Rodriguez and the moment of blunder from Jordan Pickford – namely Everton’s inability to keep the ball – but it was hard to escape the narrative of their contrasting fortunes here.
And how they shaped this result.
Draws are rare for this Everton side. It was only their third of the campaign, but having led at half-time, they were plenty glad for the point by the time Mike Dean blew the full-time whistle at a soaked Goodison Park.
Nobody looked quite as drenched as Pickford as the players trudged off.
Rodriguez put a Blues side, who only had 35% of possession across the game, into a first-half lead with a cultured sweep of his right boot to elevate a performance that was badly, and tellingly, missing any semblance of its favoured midfield.
And while that carried on after the break, and Leicester City continued to dominate possession, the hope was that where Rodriguez made something happen in the key moment, Everton’s goalkeeper would do the same at the other end if called upon.
The cruel irony, of course, is that moments before the equaliser Pickford had sprawled across his goal to palm the ball away, denying Leicester.
But when the ball came back into play, the goalkeeper first flapped at a cross and then failed to stop Youri Tielemans’ shot from outside the box.
The mitigation is that it was hit through a sea of legs, but it was also right at him, and in trying to keep it out, all Pickford managed to do was to push it onto the inside of the post.
Look, the goal had been coming, as we say in football. Everton could do little to discourage the visitors as they kept giving the ball back to them and were offering only a whiff of a threat at the other end by now.
Leicester were dominant but that will not have come as much surprise to Carlo Ancelotti.
Brendan Rodgers’ side had hogged the ball in the corresponding fixture in December (69% then, 65% here) and without Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan, the Everton boss knew his side would be up against it.
But they had defended stoutly, just as they did at the King Power, but where they protected Pickford to such an extent that Leicester recorded only two shots on target that night, they could not afford him the same barrier here. Not quite.
Because Pickford still only faced five shots at Goodison. Sadly he was unable to keep them all out.
And while the exposed, lonely existence of a goalkeeper means nights like this are inevitable – and nobody should ignore that his form has been good since the arrival of Robin Olsen – the expectation is that your goalkeeper will bail you out on a couple of occasions each season and make sure you win games, especially in the big fixtures, as Ancelotti made no hesitation in labelling this one as such.
At Tottenham, on the opening day, Pickford did exactly that. Tonight, he was found wanting in the crucial moment. He made other saves, sure, but Tielemans’ drive was the most testing of the five and he couldn’t keep it out.
And so everyone was left with a feeling of frustration. A draw with Leicester, especially given the injuries in midfield, is not a bad result but it could’ve been better. It could’ve been three points and it could’ve been a real marker of this side’s top four credentials.
Okay, it’s not anything like fatal or even a set-back, it’s just disappointing. Everton would’ve gone fourth with a win. A point sees them seventh.
At one end, Everton had the quality to give themselves a lead but at the other, they failed to keep hold of it.
Had this been a night where Leicester peppered Pickford’s goal, and he’d kept them at bay single-handedly – then one slipping through could almost be taken on the chin – but he only faced five shots and still Leicester scored.
Now Everton and Pickford have to put it behind them and move on.
The hope is that he will produce, at least, one more of those Spurs type of performances before the season ends, and doesn’t repeat one of these nights.
Everton have been here with Pickford before but the only difference now is that he has competition for his place and has a manager who is not afraid to change his goalkeeper when he sees fit.
We’ll only know at 11:30 on Saturday morning if Ancelotti has felt compelled to make such a move but it’s now more of a possibility than it would’ve been last season.
Ancelotti will, of course, be able to recall Doucoure, which, when everyone reflects on this game, is an instant morale boost.
The summer signing makes a major difference in the middle of the park.
Rodriguez will continue to make one at the top end of the pitch. Let’s hope that Pickford is back to making the right type of a difference at the other.