Joseph Kavaloski discusses Liverpool’s encouraging goalkeeping situation and how it can have positive repercussion’s for the Reds’ push for the Premier League title.
As has been a common theme over the past few seasons, Liverpool has consistently been plagued with questions about goalkeeping in 2016-17. Loris Karius was purchased over the summer and immediately took over as the number one keeper once his broken hand healed, but after a number of shaky performances, Simon Mignolet was reinstalled between the sticks.
These uneven performances and Mignolet’s spotty history in Red has caused various pundits to continually criticise Liverpool’s goalkeeping situation. That chatter has stopped recently, though, as the Reds have actually seen significant improvement since Karius was removed after the match against West Ham.
Liverpool has only conceded three goals from open play in nine matches after shipping two at home to the Hammers. This is a massive improvement when considering that the team had let in 10 in the seven matches preceding the fixture on December 11th.
Since regaining his starting place against Middlesbrough on December 14th, Mignolet’s performances have certainly been promising. In the five league matches the Belgian started at the beginning of the season, he conceded eight goals at a rate of a goal per 56 minutes.
Poor performances from defenders certainly played a part in the team’s inability to prevent goals, but Mignolet was not free from fault. However, in his six league appearances after regaining his starting place, Mignolet has improved that rate to a goal every 135 minutes.
This rate of prevention is an elite level Liverpool fans have not seen out of their former number one keeper. Especially considering that two of the four goals conceded over those six matches were from the penalty spot, it is clear that Mignolet has dramatically improved on the stat sheet.
Karius has not seen the pitch nearly as much over the past month thanks to Mignolet’s improvement, but in the matches he has participated, he too has been better than he was prior to his demotion.
Particularly in the EFL Cup semifinal against Southampton, Karius made a number of vital saves that gives the Reds hope of still possibly advancing in the return leg at Anfield. His performances in the FA Cup were relatively unimportant as Plymouth rarely staged a threat on goal, but Karius’ saves against Southampton could end up being vital if the Reds are able to advance to the EFL Cup final.
Ever since Pepe Reina began to decline, the Reds have been unable to find a consistent presence between the sticks. Mignolet was expected to be the solution at first, but his inability to command the 18-yard box left much to be desired.
As a result, Karius was brought in over the summer as a younger keeper with an excellent pedigree at Mainz. Unfortunately, the adjustment to the Premier League proved to be far more daunting than many fans expected.
Neither of these two will immediately come up in the minds of those attempting to find the top three or five keepers in the league, but the recent improvement is certainly encouraging.
One of the biggest issues with the goalkeeping position over the last few seasons has been the complete lack of competition for the starting spot. With the season just past its halfway point, it is clear that these two keepers are competing hard in training to earn the right of being included in Jürgen Klopp’s starting eleven.
Competition is almost always a positive in a team’s goalkeeping ranks and the Reds could be yet another example of this proving true. Mignolet will never be the perfect keeper in a Klopp team due to his deficiencies with the ball at his feet, but his command of the penalty area has improved dramatically since his re-installment in the starting eleven.
In the past, Brad Jones was Mignolet’s only competition for his starting place and that was likely a big reason behind the Belgian’s lack of improvement since his transfer from Sunderland. Karius’ presence appears to have motivated Mignolet to truly buckle down and hone the areas of his game that needed improvement.
Liverpool may not have the ideal goalkeeping situation of Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, but the Reds have found a way to keep it close in the title race and are looking good for a top four spot. If Liverpool can be this successful without an assuring presence in goal, the Reds could be in for a huge second half push if Mignolet and Karius continue their recent levels of performance.