If Loris Karius didn’t know how high profile of a club Liverpool are before he joined, he does now.
After a nervous first few games, Karius settled into the side quite well, keeping 4 clean sheets in his first 9 games, only conceding six goals in that spell.
Things were looking promising right up until around the 75th minute mark in Bournemouth, and what has followed hasn’t been pretty for the German.
High profile errors for two Bournemouth goals and (arguably, depending on where you stand on the second goal) two West Ham goals have seen Karius under intense scrutiny from the likes of Alan Shearer, Jamie Carragher and the Neville brothers, starting a war of words with Gary Neville and Jurgen Klopp.
Due to Karius’ errors and the points cost as a result, the Liverpool fan base has predictably, and depending on where you stand on this you may say rightly, gone into meltdown.
Calls for Simon Mignolet and Mamadou Sakho to return to the fold have been ongoing since full time at Bournemouth (because we never capitulated when those two played…right?).
The biggest debate has been whether Loris Karius is in-fact good enough to be our first choice keeper.
After Simon Mignolet’s poor (complimentary) showing last season, it was a surprise to no one that Klopp went out in the summer and got a keeper.
Sadly, it hasn’t been as easy as that. We all hoped Karius would slot in seamlessly and sort out our ongoing issues between the sticks. Yet 15 games in here we are, wondering if we have another dud in the goal.
So why stick with him? The answer is simple for me, it’s quite clear that from what we’ve seen with Karius at the minute it’s a confidence issue, not an ability issue.
When Karius first came into the side, he had one major flaw; he looked hopeless in the air. Teams were launching the ball into the box and he wasn’t leaving his line, making it easier for the opposition to win first balls and score goals from set pieces.
Apart from that, he ticked the boxes. Saved everything he should save (not that he was tested for a while) and looked good with his feet. He wasn’t dropping howlers every week, and we began to look a lot calmer as a side with him in goal.
The argument that he looked good with his feet is an interesting one and one I had today with a mate who’s a big red. He argued that it doesn’t matter what a keeper is like with his feet as long as he stops the ball going into the back of the net. It’s an interesting point of view.
Definitely, being good with your feet is a bonus for a goalie rather than a requirement, however if you have a goalie who cant use his feet at all without spreading panic, ala Mignolet, it can needlessly put you under pressure and give the ball away in daft areas.
That is the importance of the keeper being able to play with the ball at his feet like Karius can for me.
Side-tracked there, back onto the point in hand!
After a shaky first few games with the ball in the air, we saw a marked improvement from Karius in that regard from then on.
You still can see it now, too. Take the dying minutes of the West Ham game for example. The ball is pumped into our box, he’s straight off his line and punches the ball away, keeping Andy Carroll at bay. Would the Loris Karius who first came into the side be doing that? No way.
He’s showed marked improvement in that area in nine games, an improvement Simon Mignolet could not seem to achieve in 3 years as our number 1.
Unsurprisingly, as a result, we are conceding less headed goals from free-kicks and corners.
It is no longer the huge issue it was when Jurgen Klopp appeared on MNF and was quizzed on it. It’s no co-incidence with a keeper who will come off his line that this is the case.
This isn’t just a bizarre rant about how Karius has improved coming off his line…I have a point to all this.
My point is, the one real weak area in Karius’ game was the aerial side, which he has cleared up. In terms of the mistakes in the last two, they are clearly confidence issues, rather than big flaws such as the aerial flaw.
How can I say they were confidence issues and it isn’t just what he’s like as a keeper? If they weren’t confidence issues and he really was that bad, we would be conceding 4 a game and he wouldn’t have made good saves in the games against Sunderland, Watford, Palace and Bournemouth.
We have a keeper in a confidence crisis, we don’t have a bad keeper. A keeper who was as weak as shot stopping as Karius has been in the last two regularly wouldn’t of made it as a professional.
In terms of what Klopp does going forward, there are two ways for him to go and both have big positives and negatives. The first is to please the masses and drop Karius for Mignolet.
The positive of that approach is Karius is taken out the limelight and can come back stronger in time (similarly to Mignolet/Brad Jones in 14/15).
The big negative of this approach is that it sends out a ruthless message to whoever is in-between the sticks: mess up and you’re gone. For a position in which psychology and mind-set is so important, this may not be a risk Jurgen Klopp is willing to take.
The other approach is to stick with Karius and hope he comes out the other end.
Obviously, if he does, the positives are we will all put this early period down to a learning curve and he can go on to be our number 1 and a better keeper for us. However, the risk with this one is obviously that if this continues, it could destroy him.
It’s up to Jurgen Klopp to make a big call for the immediate future and it’s up to Karius to prove him right if he sticks with him. I think he will*.
*If he drops another one in against Boro, ignore all that. I said he was shite all along. This article was all a big joke.
Written by @JackMitchell_5