Jack Hallows looks at why Liverpool most definitely need a new goalkeeper come the summer and why that new keeper can’t be Joe Hart.
I’ll start with what we’ve got at the club. The Reds have an unfortunately long history of poor goalkeepers between the sticks in recent years, with Pepe Reina the last well-rounded shot-stopper to play for Liverpool. Brad Jones, Diego Cavalieri, Danny Ward, Simon Mignolet, Adam Bogdan and even Loris Karius so far are just some of the names that certainly do not inspire confidence amongst supporters.
When it comes to our current trio of keepers – Simon Mignolet, Loris Karius and Alex Manninger – Klopp has a huge problem. We don’t have a goalkeeper who is currently worthy of being called a number one. Simon Mignolet has proven time and again that he is error prone, struggles with confidence issues and has cost Liverpool numerous points over the years.
Alongside him, Loris Karius’ Liverpool career has been much shorter so far but like his counterpart, the German seems to have issues with confidence and has failed so far to adapt to the Premier League. He could of course still come good – he was voted the second best Bundesliga goalkeeper behind only Manuel Neuer last season – but as of now, he needs to remain an understudy for a truly top class goalkeeper.
Now, onto Joe Hart. He’s been England and Manchester City’s first-choice goalkeeper for as long as I can remember which means he’s definitely got some talent but don’t let that fool you, he’s just not a good fit for Liverpool.
As soon as Pep Guardiola arrived he replaced the Englishman with Claudio Bravo who, in hindsight, has been a poor signing due to his errors and issues with the most basic parts of his game. Don’t forget, however, that Bravo was signed because he was seen as a better fit for Manchester City than Hart. Seen that way by a world-renowned manager, with world-renowned coaching staff.
So why was Hart sent out on loan by Pep Guardiola in favour of the Bravo and Caballero duo? The first issue – and the main one highlighted by the media – was his distribution. The Englishman’s kicking was seen as a real weakness in his game and was always going to work against him with Guardiola’s system and style of play being built around his side playing out from the back and keeping the ball on the ground. Klopp’s style of play is very similar and we’ve seen on many occasions that distribution is one of the key reasons that Loris Karius was brought to the club with the German very comfortable with his feet.
Distribution was however only part of the problem – now go and watch compilations of goals conceded by Hart if you don’t believe me on this next point – but his shot-stopping is also nowhere near as good as anyone has made it out to be. The Englishman has a huge problem with saving shots hit low and hard, especially to his left-hand side. From 38 goals conceded this season, a staggering 34% of those have been hit low and hard to Hart’s left – something that can only be described as a fault in his game and at almost 30 years old, not one that is likely to be ironed out easily.
Now of course, not every goal conceded is the fault of the goalkeeper and there are times that shots are just simply not saveable but for the numbers to stand out in this manner suggests either Hart believes he simply doesn’t have a weakness there, or that teams are targeting this area of his goal. Torino recently conceded four goals in a match against AS Roma in the Calcio A. All four went low and hard to Hart’s left-hand side. His last goal that he conceded for England was that low effort to his left against Iceland in the Euros last year. How about Adam Lallana’s seemingly tame effort last season at Anfield that snuck in the near post down at Hart’s left? The proof is endless and a goalkeeper with an error that obvious is not one that Liverpool should be targeting.
Then there’s the matter of whether he fits Klopp’s transfer model in general. The German likes to sign younger players who he can still mould and iron out any existing flaws in their game, turning them into world-beaters after two or three seasons. If he wants a goalkeeper experienced with the Premier League there are far younger, more versatile and better fitting options. Jack Butland has had an awful injury nightmare the last 12 months but when fit is one of the best keepers in the Premier League while Jordan Pickford of Sunderland looks a promising talent.
Joe Hart is not a terrible goalkeeper make no mistake and he’d be a shrewd acquisition for a mid table club. For Liverpool, however, at the price they’d likely have to pay for his services, the wage bill he’d command and the existing flaws in his game, the Reds need to be looking elsewhere to fix the goalkeeping issue at the club.
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