“Reality doesn’t bite, rather our perception of reality bites.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo
I am always one to stick up for players and when Sane laced the equalizer pass Karius I felt the knives come out. It was a shot that could and should have been saved but the wave of anxiety that followed was supposed to be a great win, had this strange neurotic tone with Liverpool’s goalkeeper situation the cause of the problem.
Before the game Klopp made it clear that Karius would now be the first choice goalkeeper as long as he performs the required level, relegating Mignolet to the bench. So where has this decision come from. From the outside and following the departure of Coutinho the club has funds to upgrade the squad, they looked at where they can improve and the starting goalkeeper is an issue, primarily as Mignolet after playing over 200 games for Liverpool and approaching 30 years of age, has consistently not met the required standard between the sticks. So as much as the defense ahead of him has mostly been average to poor, it is fair to say that the chances of him raising his level is next to nil, given the sample size.
So what is left to do? Give Karius and Ward a chance or spend big on a replacement? Klopp has for the moment chosen the former. Liverpool has a finite amount of money and if Klopp can give Karius enough opportunities to get to the required level it can save the club a considerable amount of cash.
So why is this seen as the wrong decision and buying a goalkeeper is deemed the only solution? Why is Karius deemed not worthy of even being given a chance. After going back and forth, I think the main reason is Mignolet. Liverpool have struggled for years with the goalkeeping situation since Pepe Reina began his struggles in the post Benitez era. Supporters want a solution and any semblance of non-elite characteristics from the goalkeeper between the sticks will be pounced on and highlighted as proof that we have not solved the problem. Patience is no longer a characteristic Liverpool supporters want to hear when they are described. A second reason is our renewed wealth. The Coutinho money seems to burning a hole in most supporters pockets, but Klopp’s patience seems to be fire resistant.
Let’s look at some objective numbers. Mignolet has played 201 games in all competitions and 155 league games. Karius has played 27 games in all competitions and 14 league games.
|SIMON MIGNOLET||LORIS KARIUS|
|POINTS PER GAME – ALL COMPS||1,84||1,96|
|POINTS PER GAME – LEAGUE ONLY||1,89||2,21|
|GOALS CONCEDED PER GAME AVG – ALL COMPS||1,15||1|
|GOALS CONCEDED PER GAME – LEAGUE ONLY||1,22||1,14|
|PERCENTAGE OF CLEAN SHEETS – ALL COMP||32,8%||40,7%|
|PERCENTAGE OF CLEAN SHEETS – LEAGUE ONLY||36,4%||35,7%|
Obviously, the sample sizes are not comparable but Liverpool concede less and score more points when Karius is in goal. Now, this does not say much as Mignolet is not exactly a gold standard to be held against but its clear Karius first 18 months on average is better than Mignolet’s four and a half years. Karius points per game is also title challenging numbers as 2,21 points per game average to 84 points over 38 games. That would have won the league title in 2016 when the Foxes shocked the footballing world.
For a more tougher comparison, let’s compare Karius start to the established elite goalkeepers of the league. De Gea arrived at Manchester United to replace Edwin Van Der Sar months before he turned 21, walked into a title winning side and defense in 2011.
|DAVID DE GEA – 1ST SEASON||HUGO LLORIS – 1ST SEASON||THIBAUT COURTOIS – 1ST SEASON||LORIS KARIUS – 1ST 27 GAMES|
|POINTS PER GAME – ALL COMPS||1,95||1,88||2,1||1,96 (2nd)|
|POINTS PER GAME – LEAGUE ONLY||2,24||2,04||2,16||2,21 (2nd)|
|GOALS CONCEDED PER GAME AVG – ALL COMPS||1,21||1,03||0,88||1 (2nd)|
|GOALS CONCEDED PER GAME – LEAGUE ONLY||1||1,07||0,94||1,14 (4th)|
|PERCENTAGE OF CLEAN SHEETS – ALL COMP||38,4%||33,3%||41%||40,7% (2nd)|
|PERCENTAGE OF CLEAN SHEETS – LEAGUE ONLY||44,8%||33,3%||36,4%||35,7% (3rd)|
So on the whole, he has started better than Hugo Lloris, has a better points per game than Courtois who went onto to win the league and has numbers similar to De Gea who was supported by title winning generation of players in Ferdinand, Evra and Carrick. Karius (and Mignolet) has had to contend with Lovren and Henderson in front of him.
Also if you look through the 27 goals conceded, only three stand out as bad goals to concede. The Payet free-kick where he was poorly positioned, the fumble to give away the winner at Bournemouth 2016 and then finally the Sane goal in the last fixture. So outside of setting the world alight Karius has done a bit better than ok in his 27 games.
Maybe if we just give him the chance, others have been afforded and also enjoys the support of Emre Can and Virgil Van Dijk, we might just be onto something special with Karius and hopefully he makes use of the opportunity.