With the clock having just tipped past the 45th-minute, a thunderbolt from the left boot of Mohamed Diamé sent Loris Karius flying into action. Clawing the ball away from the right-hand corner of his goal last Saturday, Karius ensured his team would come back from the half-time interval still holding an advantage over the Magpies.
It may not have been the best save of the season to date but it was a fine save nonetheless and came at a crucially important time in the game for the Reds.
Having been in total control of the game up until that point, the whole complexion of the second half, and perhaps the match, would have been different were it not for Karius’ diving save. Over the past few season’s, it’s exactly this type of save which Liverpool have sorely lacked.
The fact that this came a week after the German keeper twice denied Marko Arnautovic, once either side of Emre Can’s opening goal, adds further weight to his growing credentials.
This raises the question of whether Liverpool now still need to find a replacement this summer for one of their team’s most important positions.
Work in progress
At 24 years old, Karius is still at a tender age for a goalkeeper. Brought into the Anfield dressing room by Jürgen Klopp for less than £5 million, Karius moved from Mainz, a club that Klopp knows well and undoubtedly still has strong internal connections with.
Having just turned 23, it was fully expected he would take time to settle into his new surroundings but a fractured hand delayed his full club debut until mid-September.
A series or errors prompted Klopp to “take him out of the firing-line”, many of these springing from poor positional play by the German. In restoring Simon Mignolet to the first-team, this left Karius with only 10 games from his debut season with the Reds.
This season has seen him slowly reintroduced into the side. Starting with appearances in each of the Champions League group games, he has now played every Premier League game since Liverpool’s trip to Burnley on New Year’s day. More importantly, Karius now looks more like the player that was promised in the summer of 2016.
With speculation rife that Klopp was looking for a new goalkeeper and the big-money arrival of Virgil van Dijk, very little attention was paid to Karius’ restoration in the team at first. Liverpool have since secured four clean sheets from his nine appearances of 2018, each of them coming from his last six games.
While he has recently been catching the eye with praise-worthy saves, perhaps more important has been the lack of errors in his game. The last of which came against Manchester City, the second match of this nine-game run.
With improving distribution, quick reflexes and a commanding presence in the air, this is all topped with a fine shot-stopping ability and backed up by a growing confidence.
Whether due to the addition of Karius, van Dijk or perhaps a combination of the two, Liverpool have looked far more composed in defence over the last few weeks.
The main contender
The heavily-rumoured favourite to solve Liverpool’s recent goalkeeper issues is Roma’s 25-year-old Brazilian, Alisson Becker. Commanding in the air, quick on the ground and a good shot-stopper, Alisson is also a fashionable sweeper-keeper and has excellent accuracy with his distribution making him a perfect fit to Klopp’s blueprint for this position.
Having allegedly failed in his bid to bring Alisson to Anfield in January, Klopp could try to rekindle a deal this summer. However, Roma now appear to be in a position where they don’t need to sell their best player’s to meet FFP guidelines as readily as they recently did, something which Chelsea learnt in January when attempting to capture Edin Džeko’s signature.
As the sales of Mohamed Salah, Leandro Paredes and Antonio Rüdiger proved last summer, Roma will only authorise a transfer if the conditions and the price are right for them. This suggests any move for one of Roma’s key players would command a significant transfer fee.
A busy summer
With Alisson being named in Tite’s Brazil World Cup squad ahead of Manchester City’s Ederson Moraes, the Roma-stopper is well endorsed. This summer’s World Cup is likely to boost Alisson’s profile even higher with Brazil expected to reach the latter stages of the tournament.
The World Cup will also see transfer prices for high-profile player remaining in a hyper-inflated state, as their agents and personal publicity machines spin off into overdrive. This too will attract a larger pool of suitors, however, Liverpool’s long-held interest and close relationship with Roma should hold them in good stead.
This doesn’t alter the fact that he’s currently playing his first full season in Europe and as such, does not have a long-proven record of consistency performing at the top level.
Furthermore, if Klopp is to bring another goalkeeper into the fold, it would not necessarily provide an immediate answer to Liverpool’s problems. Any new keeper could potentially take time to adjust to his new environment, especially if they arrive from a different league.
Stick or twist?
Both Karius and Alisson have shown the potential to become elite keepers. However, it will still be several years before either of them can genuinely be regarded in such a way – if they manage to maintain their current promise.
While Karius is not a natural sweeper-keeper, it is something that’s being worked hard on behind the scenes at Melwood and is beginning to bear fruit. At the age of 22, Karius was voted the second-best keeper in the Bundesliga behind Manuel Neuer in an award voted for by the league’s players. In a league which is full of goalkeeping talent, that was quite an achievement and hints at the potential held within him.
The biggest difference between Karius and Alisson is the extra year in age which has arguably allowed the Brazilian to develop marginally further. In an ideal world, Liverpool would have two top-class keeper’s in their squad, however, both will need a regular run of games which leaves the decision an almost straight choice for Klopp to make in this case.
With nine Premier League games and presumably at least three more Champions League appearances still to come this season, Karius has been given the perfect opportunity to stake his claim.
Consistency is the most important trait a goalkeeper needs to progress and now he has the chance to show it, including a game on Saturday which could again see people drawing comparisons between him and David de Gea.
What do you think? Should Liverpool stick with Loris Karius? Let us know by commenting below.