Jack Hallows looks at whether Loris Karius is a lucky keeper whose mistakes have been covered luckily this season or whether he deserves more praise.
On last week’s Blood Red podcast – grab it on iTunes it’s a great listen – Andy Kelly claimed that Loris Karius hadn’t actually been good so far, he’d been “lucky.” His mistakes had so far been unpunished and winning scorelines had glossed over the issues he’d been having. This weekend, however, following a howler of an error that saw Liverpool leave Bournemouth red-faced, Jurgen Klopp was forced to intimate that the German was in fact “unlucky.” So which is it? Is Karius an underrated goalkeeper who’s been unlucky so far in a Reds shirt? Or has he been lucky to do as well as he has?
A lucky ‘keeper unpunished until Sunday
The case for this is an interesting one. On one hand, there have been a number of would-be high profile errors made by Karius that have gone unpunished throughout. A poor pass that Ibrahimovic could easily have scored from had he reacted quicker against United, a pass out for a corner – yes, you read that correctly – against Sunderland, Karius came running out against Swansea only for their attacker to meet the ball first and direct it just wide with practically the last kick of the game.
The German has looked nervous and shaky throughout his Liverpool career so far and he’s not looked at what has been said to be his best in a number of games since becoming the Reds number 1. His shot-stopping ability has been erratic, his kicking good one minute and woeful the next while his communication with his back line still seems to be lacking in important situations. As Kellly pointed out, so many of his errors have been swept under the rug by the fact they went unpunished whereas if someone like Simon Mignolet made them then all hell would’ve broken loose.
Unlucky on Sunday and unfairly judged
On the flip side, Karius has had some good games. He was fantastic in my opinion against Watford and while he had very little to do against Sunderland and Southampton he made a couple of smart stops to preserve his clean sheet in both. Aside from the fourth goal on Sunday, there’s also the point that defensive errors led to all of the first three goals with Dejan Lovren, in particular, playing like a headless chicken.
Karius is only 23 years old and his youth and rawness has been defended endlessly by Jurgen Klopp and while the German wouldn’t openly slate any of his players – aside from maybe Sakho – he wouldn’t continually pick him if he felt he was a poor keeper.
Mignolet was dropped for both Adam Bogdan and Danny Ward at times last season showing the German’s ruthless side and it would be a similar story for Karius. We also have to remember that he’s come from a league that is less physical and has a completely different playing style. Furthermore, in the Bundesliga, he was at a mid table team with very little pressure on his shoulders. At Liverpool, he’s come straight into a side looking to mount a title challenge and the pressure levels will be tenfold what he’s used to.
Roberto Firmino is a good example of what I’m talking about. The Brazilian came from a mid-table Bundesliga side before arriving at Liverpool last season and initially struggled awfully with the added pressure of representing Liverpool, being written off in the first month of his career. Now he is arguably the Reds MVP.
For me, I agree with both of these points to an extent. Loris Karius has indeed been very lucky in that some of his errors have gone unpunished and been forgotten about – kicking a goal kick out for a corner is unforgivable and should be impossible and the Bournemouth mistake was terrible. However, he is still young, has a lot to learn and has come into a completely different playing situation. David De Gea was similar when he first joined Manchester United and while most are tired of hearing the comparisons already, he was nowhere near the solid wall he is now. He was a weedy, weak and nervous keeper when he joined United but time and nurturing saw him improve radically.
Karius’ career is only nine games old and he has plenty of time to develop. He’s shown in fits and starts his ability to stop shots, sweep and distribute effectively and given the right amount of time could easily evolve into a top class keeper. Give him time and for now, get behind him. You don’t have to forget his mistakes but don’t try and end his career before it’s begun.