Liverpool: Is Nick Pope an improvement on Karius and Mignolet?
Nick Pope has been touted as a potential Liverpool signing, but would the Burnley and England stopper actually be an improvement for the Reds?
Liverpool have been persistently linked with Roma and Brazil goalkeeper Alisson over the last few months, rumours that have only intensified after Loris Karius’ costly mistakes in the Champions League final.
But with their opponents in that final Real Madrid now reportedly set to muscle in for Alisson themselves, the Reds may find themselves back to the drawing board in their hunt for a new goalkeeper.
One name that has been mentioned in recent days is Nick Pope.
The Burnley goalkeeper is currently in Russia with England after a fairytale year that saw him fully capitalise on Tom Heaton’s injury, to cement himself as one of the most impressive stoppers in the league.
However, would Pope actually be an upgrade on the much-maligned Karius, or Simon Mignolet? RealSport take a look at the stats.
In the 2017/18 season, Nick Pope was part of a Burnley side that defied the odds to come seventh, securing a place in Europe through organisation and hard work. In a team that defended doggedly, Pope was a lot busier than most top six goalkeepers would be.
On average he made 2.57 saves per game, compared to Simon Mignolet (1.43) and Loris Karius (1.47).
With top level goalkeepers, it is more useful to compare their saves per goal ratio, as an indicator of how hard they are for opposition forwards to beat. It is when examining this number that you can truly see why Simon Mignolet was dropped.
In his 14 Premier League appearances for Liverpool in the 2017.18 season, the Belgian’s saves per goal ratio was a pathetic 0.95, not even averaging one save between each goal he conceded. Karius in fairness was much better in this regard, averaging 2.00 saves per goal.
This number seems decent until compared with other goalkeepers. We’ve already established that Pope had much more to do, and his ratio is still a significant upgrade on Karius’ with 2.73.
David de Gea appears to be the benchmark when it comes to Premier League goalkeepers, and you can see why with his number, averaging a whopping 3.58 saves per goal, his importance to United is obvious.
Liverpool’s primary target Alisson was one of the very few goalkeepers that gets close to de Gea’s number, with 3.41, making it clear why Liverpool have been so keen to sign him.
The lack of quality showcased by 13 of the 20 teams in the Premier League was regularly highlighted last season. Average possession stats for the top six have continued to rise, with a majority of sides willing to cede possession.
Many of these lower teams will look to get it into the box and look for a big target man when opportunities in the final third present themselves, so having a commanding goalkeeper is even more important now than it has ever been.
Nick Pope is extremely impressive when it comes to taking crosses, with an average claim success of 94%. This is a lot better than Mignolet’s 85% and Karius’ 87%, and even beats the likes of de Gea (86%) and Alisson (90%).
Liverpool haven’t had a truly commanding goalkeeper since Pepe Reina was in his prime, so Pope looks good in this respect.
As already mentioned, top six clubs tend to have a lot of possession, and goalkeepers are now seen as an important part of being able to build attacks from the back. Having a number one that is comfortable with the ball at his feet is imperative.
It’s his kicking stats that lets Nick Pope’s case down.
Of course, at Burnley he is asked to kick long, with an average distribution distance of 53 metres dwarfing Liverpool’s average of 32m for Mignolet and 33m for Karius. But his success rate of 45% will not be appealing to Jurgen Klopp.
A reason Alisson is so desirable for how Liverpool play, is that his average distribution length is exactly the same as Mignolet’s, except with an average success rate of 83%, much better than the Belgian’s 75% or Karius’ 72%.
No time for compromise
When the numbers are crunched, you can see why Liverpool are so keen on Roma’s Alisson, he fits the mould of what they do perfectly, and performs the role significantly better.
Whilst Nick Pope is clearly a good goalkeeper, he feels like too much of a compromise, as did Karius when he first signed in 2016.
This is the summer where Liverpool need to address the position properly once and for all, and Nick Pope is not the answer.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group F in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.