Matthew Schattner explains why Loris Karius might struggle against Tony Pulis’ West Brom side with the stats showing the German ‘keeper could be in for a rough afternoon on Saturday.
Newly embedded keeper Loris Karius may prove to be Liverpool’s weak link when the club hosts West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on Saturday. The keeper has not been truly tested during his tenure in goal, but his statistics do not inspire confidence versus Tony Pulis’ typical tactics.
West Brom manager Tony Pulis arranges his side with his trademark negative tactics. His players sit deep to defend around their own box, relying on arguably desperate long balls for attacking moments. His West Brom side attempts 71.8 long balls per game, fifth most among teams in the Premier League this season per data from Whoscored.
The Baggies prefer to soak up pressure off the ball, as Transfermarkt shows that they only retain the ball for an average of 44.5% of the match, the fifth lowest rate among teams in the Premier League. West Brom is also one of the most aggressive teams in the Premier League this season, earning an astounding 20 yellow cards after only eight games.
Karius will struggle against Pulis’ methods, as he has not yet been tested in the air or in his own box. Whoscored data shows that the 23-year-old has not engaged in any aerial duels yet in his three matches between the posts, and he has blocked just three shots, only one of which came from inside the penalty area. Karius has also only made one clearance in his three matches, one of the worst rates among the league’s keepers.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has backed his young keeper, stating, “It has been a very good start,” and the Reds manager emphasised that Karius will continue to improve and adapt to the rigours of the Premier League.
The last time these two sides met at Anfield in December, Klopp’s men snatched a stoppage time equaliser, but the two managers refused to shake hands and Klopper later claimed that Pullis’ side had “only played long balls.”
“We don’t defend at 100 percent on set pieces,” said Klopp yesterday morning, indicating a concern over West Brom’s set piece prowess, with the Baggies scoring six of their nine goals this season from set pieces. He added, “We can’t avoid the set piece, we have to defend them really well.”
Liverpool has a history of struggling against Pulis’ teams in the Premier League, as This is Anfield reports that the Reds have only beaten Pulis in four of 16 clashes, including nine draws. The last Liverpool victory in the Premier League against Pulis was a 2-0 win over Stoke in 2011, but that was the result of Luis Suarez’ brilliance, an option no longer available to Liverpool.
Karius will have the confidence boost from his clean sheet against Manchester United on Monday evening, but United was not potent in attack and hardly saw any of the ball with only 35 percent possession. Karius may have quickly displaced Simon Mignolet in the net after his summer transfer from the Bundesliga, but the keeper has a long way to go before cementing his place among the Premier League’s goalkeeping elite. West Brom will show whether Karius is on his way up the ranks, or if he as vulnerable as his stats so far suggest.
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