Martin King addresses Loris Karius’ unconvincing start to life as Liverpool’s number one goalkeeper.
The Liverpool career of Loris Karius may still be in its infancy but the young goalkeeper’s performances thus far have provided plenty of food for thought, with fans and experts expressing more doubt than optimism over the German’s chances of being a success at Anfield.
Sunday’s 6-1 demolition of Watford was Karius’ seventh start in all competitions ever since he replaced Simon Mignolet as Liverpool’s first choice goalkeeper. Jürgen Klopp’s side is set up such that the back-four and goalkeeper won’t constantly be put under large amounts
of pressure – unless the Reds allow it.
Liverpool’s gegenpressing system, coupled with their high tempo forward play, ensures that opposition attackers hardly get any time on the ball to maneuver any openings. As a result of that and the fact that Liverpool started the match very quickly, Karius had little to do in the first half at Anfield.
There was, however, an interesting incident in that first half that perhaps highlighted why the 23-year-old is yet to win over the Anfield faithful.
Liverpool were flying at that point and any chances created by Watford were either lacking in quality or snubbed by the unlikely defensive pairing of Lucas Leiva and Joel Matip. Watford threaded a ball forward that went beyond their strikers, with the Reds defence letting it through to their goalkeeper.
Karius, under no pressure at all, came rushing off his line to perform a sweeper-keeper style headed clearance and although his head made contact with the ball, the clearance wasn’t of the best quality as it remained in Liverpool’s half, giving Watford possession again.
This poor attempted clearance may have been proof that the former Mainz starlet is perhaps trying a bit too hard to make a good impression in the first team, an aspect that has clearly affected his game.
This was evident in Liverpool’s previous encounter against Crystal Palace. The first goal the Reds conceded was, of course, down to the horrible error of defender Dejan Lovren and you would sympathise with Karius for the resulting goal Palace scored. However, put in the situation he was, the better choice to take would’ve been to remain on his line and back himself to make a save – James McArthur will only find himself in those one-on-one situations once in every blue moon anyway.
Also, a constant in Karius’ Liverpool career thus far has been the punching away of incoming balls and this particular trait can be frustrating from most ‘keepers. When an opposing team has committed men forward and Liverpool’s defence is put under pressure by an aerial
ball, catching that ball can ease the pressure, punching it away can only increase it, especially if it doesn’t land at a teammate’s feet.
I reiterate: Karius is perhaps trying a bit too hard to make a good impression in the first team. The fact that obviously needs acknowledging is that the same can be said – and has been said – for a lot of other upcoming youngsters, even those that now find themselves
established as Liverpool’s first team stars.
Take, for instance, Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian is probably out on his own as Liverpool’s most influential player and one of the Premier League’s best attackers today, however, back in 2013 when he joined from Inter, the Serie A club had written him off as somewhat a
flop and although his talent was always clear to see, the same could be said of the reason why the Italian club let him go.
He was trying too hard.
Coutinho clearly had a keen eye for special goals, however, the number of times he would ignore a passing opportunity to drift inside from his left before only shooting the ball into row Z is almost countless.
Emre Can is another similar example. Karius’ countryman is beginning to experience a very fruitful period in his Liverpool career and his maturity levels seem to be growing under Klopp, but prior to that, the midfielder was constantly guilty of making unrealistic dribbles,
trying too many cute passes and attempting the Gerrard-esque, long-range shot (which he failed miserably to perfect).
Both players have now worked past those inconsistencies and the rewards have been a joy to experience for Reds fans. Not every goal Coutinho scores now comes flying in from 25 yards out, in fact, he more often sacrifices that desire to let fly in favour of bringing his fellow players into the game. As a result, fellow strikers Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané have been able to get their names on the score-sheet.
Can, on the other hand, has, in recent times displayed a calmer presence in midfield with his disciplined performances, simple passing and improved goal-return.
So, what is Coutinho and Can’s secret to improvement been? Keeping it simple!
In order for Karius to finally settle in the Liverpool team and follow in the path of Coutinho and Can, in putting in the sort of performances that earn him plaudits as a ‘keeper, the German needs to simplify his game and not try too hard to live-up to the excitement that initially surrounded his transfer from Mainz in the summer.
Instead of coming off his line to make glorious Manuel Neuer-type saves or punching the ball away in spectacular fashion – which would, of course, earn him plenty of praise from observers – sometimes it’s much wiser to remain on your line as a goalkeeper and back yourself to make the save or, when the ball comes flying in, catch it and take the pressure off your fellow teammates before allowing them to charge forward and distributing the ball.
In football, and to a greater extent life itself, it’s always the small things that can either have a beneficial or detrimental impact.
At the moment, it’s the small things in Karius’ game that are proving to be detrimental but by ironing out those small inconsistencies from his game, the 23-year-old would likely be setting himself up for a successful future as Liverpool’s number one ‘keeper and who knows?
Maybe even Germany’s.