Has Nick Pope proven himself as England's BEST goalkeeper?

Is Nick Pope England’s No 1? Jordan Pickford has struggled at Everton while Dean Henderson isn’t taking his chances at Manchester United, so with five clean sheets and the Premier League’s best save record, Burnley’s keeper is on track for Euros nod

  • Nick Pope had the highest save percentage of any keeper before this weekend 
  • The 28-year-old has performed well in the Premier League for strugglers Burnley 
  • Jordan Pickford made two horrendous blunders for Everton early this season 
  • Dean Henderson has rarely played for Manchester United and has made an error 
  • Sportsmail analyses if Pope is best placed to start for Gareth Southgate’s men 

Nick Pope may have only represented England four times but his form for struggling Burnley may well have proven he is the country’s best goalkeeper at present.

The 28-year-old has kept five clean sheets already for Sean Dyche’s men, the latest against Aston Villa in midweek for a side sitting one place and point above the relegation zone ahead of their trip to Leeds.

Pope’s upturn in form has coincided with a tricky few months for Jordan Pickford, whose performances for Everton early on in the campaign were littered with blunders, while Dean Henderson has also committed a recent error in his limited game time for Manchester United.

Nick Pope has kept five clean sheets for Burnley in the Premier League so far this season

Pope also had the highest save percentage of any goalkeeper before this weekend’s action

1) Nick Pope (Burnley) – 77.2 per cent

2) Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) – 76.9 per cent

3) Edouard Mendy (Chelsea) – 75 per cent

4) Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa) – 72.3 per cent

5) Alphonse Areola (Fulham) – 71.2 per cent 

*Stats provided by Opta 

‘I’m never going to be one who can get 50 or 60 [caps], because of my age. But getting as many as I can is a motivator,’ Nick Pope told Sportsmail in an exclusive interview in July regarding his England future.

But with the delayed Euro 2020 drawing ever closer with the turn of the year nearly upon us, is Pope just a few months away from turning that motivation into reality under England boss Gareth Southgate?

In both the Sportsmail interview and in the press conference before his latest England appearance –  the friendly clash with the Republic of Ireland at Wembley – Pope appeared too diplomatic to signal his intent to displace Pickford as No 1.

‘I think it’s fair to say he’s number one at the minute,’ Pope said when asked about Pickford’s position last month.

‘If you look at the last 25, 30 fixtures, he’d have played probably 28 of them. So, a person with that sort of record in the national team, I think, deserves to be called number one and has earned it. It’s not happened overnight. It’s happened over two, three years consistently playing for your country.

‘So, I think it’s fair to say he’s number one at the minute, not to say that doesn’t change whenever the time may be. For a goalkeeper, you’ve got to keep working and – like any player does – earn your right to be in the squad and fighting hard to make your way into the team.’

However, the numbers this season suggest that while he may not admit it, he is mounting some serious pressure on the Everton keeper despite playing in a team that is trying to stave off relegation as opposed to being in the hunt for European football.

Could he now beat Dean Henderson (centre) and Jordan Pickford (left) to become Gareth Southgate’s No 1 goalkeeper at the Euros

Pope’s latest England appearance came in a friendly against Republic of Ireland in November

At the time of writing, statistics provided by Opta highlight that Pope has the highest save percentage of any goalkeeper in the Premier League this season with 77.2 per cent, having made 44 saves in just 11 games.

MOST SAVES THIS SEASON (AS OF DECEMBER 18) 

1) Sam Johnstone (West Brom) – 56

2) Karl Darlow (Newcastle) – 51

3) Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United) – 50

4) Illan Meslier (Leeds United) – 48

5) Alphonse Areola – 48

6) Nick Pope – 44 

*Stats provided by Opta

Tottenham stopper Hugo Lloris is the next on the list with 76.9 per cent having made four fewer saves in two more appearances than Pope, while Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy is third on the list with 75 per cent following 15 saves in nine games.

Pickford himself however comes tenth on the list with a save percentage of 68 per cent after saving 34 efforts in 11 games.

Pope’s 44 saves also put him pretty high up on the list for the most of any keeper in the league, with West Brom’s Sam Johnstone at the top of the pile with 56 saves from 13 appearances.

The Burnley keeper appears sixth on that specific list, with Newcastle’s Karl Darlow, Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale, Leeds’ Illan Meslier and Fulham stopper Alphonse Areola above him.

So while the statistics do not mention Burnley’s position in the table and their proclivity to concede more goals than top-half side, Pope has clearly put himself well in contention to emerge as one of the league’s best goalkeepers in years to come.

Only Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez record of six clean sheets in 13 games is superior to the Burnley man’s five shutouts from 11 appearances this season, and his case for an England spot has been strengthened by poor form from Pickford and a lack of game time for Henderson.

Current England No 1 Pickford has been under the microscope this season and following howlers against Fleetwood in the Carabao Cup and Brighton in the Premier League, had failed to keep a clean sheet since the opening weekend of the season before last weekend’s victory against Chelsea.

Pickford has received the support of Gareth Southgate (above) and Carlo Ancelotti

Pickford’s position at both club and international level have been questioned this season

The win against Frank Lampard’s men was just his second of the season from 11 matches, and only four players in his position – including Liverpool’s Alisson – have a worse clean sheet record in 2020-21. 

Toffees’ boss Carlo Ancelotti and England manager Southgate have kept faith with Pickford – who has won 30 caps for his country – and former Everton shot-stopper Neville Southall believes they have been right to, although the Italian did feel the need to hold crunch talks with the shotstopper after his Brighton error.

Some impressive displays, particularly against Leeds, have come in recent weeks and helped his save statistics read slightly better with 34 coming in 11 games, but he has also had luck along the way after escaping a potential red card in the Merseyside derby for a reckless challenge which has likely ended Virgil van Dijk’s season.

In October, a blunder saw him drop the ball at the feet of Brighton’s Neal Maupay to score

He had to hold crunch talks with Carlo Ancelotti after the error but was backed by the Italian

But following the two howlers at Fleetwood and dropping the ball at Neal Maupay’s feet against Brighton, but there appears to be a general consensus that a mistake from him is just around the corner.

Manchester United stopper Henderson meanwhile has played just six matches for the club this season following two successful years on loan at Sheffield United.

MOST CLEAN SHEETS (AS OF DECEMBER 18)

1) Emiliano Martinez – 6 (11 games)

2) Nick Pope – 5 (11 games)

3) Hugo Lloris – 5 (13 games)

4) Alex McCarthy (Southampton) – 5 (13 games)

5) Ederson (Manchester City) – 5 (12 games) 

With limited game time, every performance matters that little bit more, and as the 23-year-old discovered at his old stomping ground in midweek, every blunder is highlighted to a greater degree.

Henderson dawdled on the ball long enough Oliver Burke to close him down and caught him in possession before finding David McGoldrick to fire home from close range.

David De Gea has too been a man under fire in recent months, but the incident in the 3-2 win against the Blades demonstrated Henderson still has some way to go to not only challenge the Spaniard at club level, but also add to his solitary England cap, which came in the second half against Republic of Ireland.

His three Premier League appearances in 2020-21 mean there is little data to go off this season, but last season Henderson was pretty much neck and neck when it came to a form comparison with Pope.

The then Blades goalkeeper had a higher save percentage of 74.2 per cent as opposed to 70.2 per cent with his Burnley counterpart, while Pope’s 120 saves were superior to Henderson’s 97.

Pope kept two more clean sheets than Henderson with 15, however the former did play two more matches – managing all 38 games of the league season in total – in the top flight than the latter, while also making one more mistake than the man five years his junior. 

Pickford has played better recently but escaped a red card in October’s Merseyside derby for a reckless challenge on Virgil van Dijk

Dean Henderson meanwhile has played just six matches for Manchester United in 2020-21

Henderson’s form at Sheffield United last season however was comparable with Pope’s

But Henderson’s chances of running Pope close this season become slimmer by the week, as do his England Euros chances, and whether he heeds former Arsenal and England stopper David Seaman’s advice and seeks a move in January remains to be seen.

‘I would love to see how many caps I can get,’ Pope stated as his simple desire when he spoke to Sportsmail earlier this year. 

With the current form he is demonstrating, and the struggles his competitors have shown this season in terms of form and game time, there may well be a fair few waiting for him the next time a major international competition comes round next year.

Henderson’s only England cap so far in his career came against Republic of Ireland

But now it appears Pope may well be the favourite for the No 1 jersey ahead of his competitors




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