2018 has been a turning point in his career. No longer wondering whether he has been selected, being left in the dark and on the bench one week, but starting Champions League games the next. It didn’t make sense to some pundits, fans and probably himself and Simon Mignolet. A goalkeeper needs games and consecutive games.
Leading up to the January transfer window, fans wanted a new defensive line. Virgil van Dijk was bought by the Anfield chiefs and the final piece to the jigsaw was seen as a goalkeeper. Jan Oblak and Allison were linked but it never happened and Loris Karius was installed, to mixed reviews from all directions, as Liverpool’s number one. He had in fact been the second best goalkeeper in Germany, and with Manuel Neuer winning that accolade on a yearly basis, that was a feat to be proud of and no one was going to beat the German World Cup winner to that award. So has it worked?
In a nutshell, yes. A shaky start in which Leroy Sane drilled one past the Liverpool man, at his near post, whilst he adopted an unnatural goalkeeping position with his hands low and ex-goalkeeper turned pundit Shay Given stated he’ll “look back at this one tomorrow and be very disappointed.” Who could argue with that? It wasn’t what you’d expect from a number one goalkeeper of a team who are mixing it with the European elite. Beating Manchester City that day let Karius off the hook, but it was a wake up call for the German.
Fast forward two months and the results have been hugely optimistic. Do Liverpool need a new goalkeeper after all? Has Jurgen shown us once again that he knows best?
Barring giving away a controversial penalty to Harry Kane, with the England man seemingly going down before contact was made, Karius not only made amends to his error with a fine stop, he has not put a foot wrong since. Important saves at a potentially tricky away trip to St Mary’s and on the stroke of half time against Newcastle, with both games finely balanced, just gave us a glimpse of the goalkeeper we all thought we had bought when he arrived from Mainz in 2016. Distribution has improved dramatically, and he is slowly bringing a sense of calm to the team, not striking fear into The Kop every time a back pass is played.
The Instagram posts and thermal leggings have remained, but they can stay as long as they performance levels are high. English football is notoriously physical, and although we may see goalkeepers as highly protected over here, in mainland Europe it’s a whole different ball game. That will always have taken time to get to grips with.
Arguably the greatest goalkeeper currently in the Premier League is a certain Spaniard who plays for a team just up the M62. We all know what he was like when he arrived, small, frail and didn’t look like he could handle the physicality of the League. A run of games and suddenly he developed into one of the best. Karius has a long way to go to reach those heights, but it’s refreshing to see faith in a player lacking confidence being given a chance, rather than being sent on the next flight out of John Lennon airport as soon as his replacement is purchased.
Whisper it quietly, but Liverpool may really have found their number one for years to come.