Even a World Cup hasn’t completely taken away the pain of that Champions League Final for Liverpool fans. It still hurts, and will carry on doing so for a while yet. It will take a lot to erase that night from the memory which is not good news if you happen to be the goalkeeper solely responsible for two of the three goals. Media reports claim Jurgen Klopp has ended his search for a goalkeeper and is sticking by the young German. Is there any room for loyalty and faith in the modern game or is Klopp tying the knot on the noose he will one-day hang from?
Having had a summer to drown his sorrows, Loris Karius has had time to let the wounds heal of that night in May. Fans have a right to still bare an ill thought to the idea of him retaining the Liverpool number one slot. News that their manager is going to stick with the calamitous German has made the Liverpool faithful question the owners commitment to the club with the lack of investment when the truth may well be that Klopp may be the one deciding not to address the problem. One thing which is evident, time has not proved a great healer in this instance. Firstly, in a warm up before a pre-season friendly the Sky Sports coverage inadvertently managed to catch Karius fumbling a shot into the net. As if that wasn’t bad enough in another pre-season friendly versus Tranmere he spilt another shot straight into the path of an opposition player to give away a goal.
The fact of the matter is, Real Madrid game aside, Karius has always looked like he has a mistake or two in him every game. At times a great shot-stopper, his positioning is dreadful, he looks a liability at crosses and his communication is poor. Goalkeeping is arguably 30% ability, 20% agility, 50% confidence. The first two factors pale into insignificance if the latter is lacking. Your defence needs to believe in the man between the sticks and work together as a unit, Liverpool’s flat-pack defence has yet to be constructed properly. Most of the parts are there, the ones that aren’t however are key to the building project. Fans, commentators and experts alike have mocked and lamented Liverpool’s leaky defence for some time now and even they cannot believe that the club have not addressed the problem with a big name signing.
Hardened fans argue how De Gea struggled in his first few seasons at Old Trafford before blossoming into the world class player we see today. For every De Gea, there’s ten Karius’. The chances of that same progression with each keeper who struggles with the rigours of the Premier League are extremely slim. A more worrying factor at Anfield is that is not a single issue but a trend. Some would say the club haven’t had a ‘top four’ keeper since Reina, others would go back as far as Clemence. That is a debate for another time. Either way, a number of goalkeepers have joined the club in that time and the pattern shows that continue to become the weak link in the club’s armour. Are the problems deeper rooted in the coaching and academy structure of goalkeeping at Liverpool? Does Klopp need to shuffle the pack in playing and coaching staff?
The Premier League is probably the best in the world and the hardest to win. The big teams are spending more and more each year to ensure that they are in the mix at the end of the season. Liverpool regard themselves as one of the ‘big six’ and to prove this they need to act like them. United and City would not have let an issue like this continue for this long at their club. They know they could not afford to. I will stick my neck out here and say, if Liverpool to not address their goalkeeping problem it will cost them trophies and possibly Champions League football. Many have differing opinions and that is the beauty of the game we all love but even those defending the record of the German, need to analyse more than just stats. The addition of Van Dijk in January improved the defence massively as they had someone to command the backline, something they have lacked since Carragher.
In a lot of the games where Karius did keep clean sheets, I can recall on numerous occasions gasping at some blunder which has gone unpunished. When he arrived from FC Mainz everyone was excited to have the goalkeeper who finished second to Manuel Neuer in the Bundesliga version of goalkeeping award voted for by the players. Even his old club say they don’t recognise him from the player they had and even during that period he averaged over a goal a game conceded. Whether you are traditional and want to show the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ mentality towards the keeper, mentally, there is no coming back from that night in Kiev. He can try and rebuild his career in the reserves or should possibly go out on loan to try and regain some confidence. Either way, he is far from ready to carry the mantle of Liverpool number one.
The transfer talk has linked the club with most people currently donning gloves around the world. There doesn’t seem to be any truth the stories doing the rounds. One thing they have revealed is the sort of money that will be needed to buy yourself a world class goalkeeper. It is reported that Klopp is exhausted with the lack of options available to him so has decided to work with what he has got. Surely, he can’t be that naïve? It is his head which would no doubt be on the chopping block making such a contentious decision in such a problem position. He is known for sticking by his principles but seeing his passion on the touchline, you would think Jurgen felt the same pain as everyone else when these mistakes happened. For me, Jurgen Klopp has a number of options available to him this summer.
Jan Oblak, Allison and Donnarumma have all been talked about. These three goalkeepers have buy-out clauses ranging from £40-70m. These are three quality options. I have seen all three play on numerous occasions and some of the saves they make are unbelievable. Oblak is the most experienced and rounded of the three and would be my first choice. Donnarumma would be my next choice as he is a very young keeper who has a wealth of experience at such a young age and Liverpool could be buying a keeper they can keep for in excess of ten years if they deliver on the trophy front. Then there are less accomplished options with the likes of Butland, Pickford and Pope. Granted, Pickford would not be a likely acquisition given the club he currently plays for. These goalkeepers are by no means world class as yet. Talk even mentions that Southampton are looking to loan Fraser Forster out for the season. If Klopp feels his targets aren’t available currently surely this is a no-brainer as on his day, Forster is a beast between the sticks. A real presence who seems to make the goals seem smaller for attackers.
Klopp has barely touched the Coutinho money and would have expected even more this summer aside from that transfer. The funds are there for the club to buy a keeper who already is the ‘finished article’. Even blind people can see the crux of Liverpool’s problems, why are the club turning a blind eye to it? This could be one of the most pivotal transfer windows of Liverpool’s recent history having come so close to winning Europe’s biggest trophy last season and securing Mo Salah to a five-year contract. Will FSG back their manager? Has Klopp taken a leaf out of Wenger’s book in saving the club money? As with everything associated to this club, being a fan is a rollercoaster of emotions but the highs far outweigh the lows and their army of supporters wouldn’t have it any other way.