Martin King takes a close look at Loris Karius’ first three games for Liverpool and examines if he has done enough to continue playing ahead of Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool fans have finally got to see summer signing Loris Karius in action after he recovered from a hand injury suffered in pre-season.
The German has been tipped to become the club’s new first choice goalkeeper and was given three appearances by Jürgen Klopp to make his mark, but with the international break has come questions over whether the former Mainz player has done enough to continue starting ahead of Simon Mignolet in future.
Here I analyse Karius’ performances in those three games, before giving my verdict on whether they warrant him a place in Liverpool’s starting line-up on October 17th, against Manchester United.
Derby County vs Liverpool
The German made his first start at Pride Park Stadium in what was a third round clash in the EFL Cup and despite it being a relatively untroubled performance, it still produced some key talking points.
On the night, Derby had only four shots on target and such was the Championship side’s lack of quality that just two of them called Karius into action, as headers from Bradley Johnson and Darren Bent were aimed straight into his hands.
Following a save, ball distribution is an important aspect of any ‘keeper’s game and Karius looked strong in this area, especially with the delivery coming from his feet.
His most impressive contribution on the night came just before the half-time interval. Darren Bent beat the offside trap after a ball was played in behind the Reds defence but Karius came rushing off his line to deny the Englishman a scoring opportunity with a sliding tackle to clear the ball away with his legs – a clearance that spoke volumes of his bravery, earning him comparisons to Manuel Neuer.
There were still a few nervy moments, though. His decision to punch an oncoming ball away instead of catching it almost granted Derby a goal in the second half and overall his and Liverpool’s vulnerability in set-piece situations was a worrying factor.
However, Karius would eventually see the match through with a clean-sheet and deservedly earn himself good plaudits for his performance.
Liverpool vs Hull City
Some of those plaudits must have come from his manager, who kept faith in his goalkeeper enough to see him make his Premier League debut at home against Hull.
If the previous match against Derby was a tricky test then Karius would’ve been forgiven for thinking his Premier League debut was a walk in the park at half-time as the Tigers failed to register a single shot on target.
The German’s good ability on the ball was still on show and he also gave the Anfield faithful more food for thought. Whenever Liverpool had the ball deep in the opposition half, Karius would display a sweeper-keeper trait in coming off his line to be found near the half-way circle, practically making himself the eleventh outfield player.
The only disappointment in what was a joyful afternoon for Liverpool fans would come in the second half, as the Reds’ failure to clear the ball from a Hull corner saw Karius concede his first competitive goal scored by David Meyler.
However, the rest of the game saw Klopp’s men respond with two more goals and Karius remain untroubled, making it another pleasing performance in goal.
Swansea City vs Liverpool
Perhaps this was the only performance out of the three to waver the Anfield faithful’s belief that Karius was indeed an upgrade on Mignolet.
Swansea began like a house on fire, playing for their under-pressure manager – who was eventually sacked – and testing the Liverpool backline as well as Karius thoroughly. This saw them create a few early chances which didn’t trouble the ‘keeper until the 8th minute.
Again, the Reds’ weakness in defending set-pieces was on show as Leroy Fer poked home a second ball, with Karius leaving a significant amount of space open on his goal. That goal seemed to shake the German as he struggled to look assured for the rest of the game, a problem that was seen largely in his distribution.
Karius seemed a bit too ponderous with the ball at his feet and on a few occasions reminded fans of Mignolet with some aimless distribution.
Liverpool could’ve also given away two points on Saturday as Karius failed to come for a late cross into his box but he, along with a legion of Reds fans, breathed a sigh of relief as Mike van der Hoorn failed to capitalise and Klopp’s men held on to grab a fourth consecutive league win.
We have already seen in the past with players like Roberto Firmino that settling into English football can take some time, so it would be jumping the gun to suggest that Karius is not the much improved ‘keeper we all hoped for.
Certainly, on current performances, Simon Mignolet has done enough to continue in goal after the international break but Karius has proven that his good ball distribution and his bravery, in coming out to defy Bent against Derby, are key attributes that Liverpool have missed.
Much like the Belgian, Karius needs to show a lot of that bravery in set-piece situations by commanding his own box but a goalkeeper is only as good as his defence so the Reds’ backline do need to improve as well.
I think the summer signing should continue in goal against Manchester United because that will only further his development and boost his confidence.
The more game-time he receives, the more he can settle and finally display the form that initially earned him the £4.7 million move to Merseyside.
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