Loris Karius is currently Liverpool’s undisputed No.1 having properly replaced Simon Mignolet between the sticks in January.
While he’s not been directly responsible for Liverpool’s defensive improvements, he has played a significant part and that’s without taking into account the number of game-changing saves he’s made.
His quicker distribution is an asset, as is the speed with which he comes off of his line to quell the opposition’s scarce surges into the Reds’ defensive third. The difference in that respect between the German shot-stopper and his Belgian counterpart is as clear as day and night.
Ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final our friends at Football Whispers look at how the German has overtaken Mignolet as Jurgen Klopp’s first choice between the sticks.
Though rarely tested, only Manchester City faced fewer shots on a per 90 minute basis than Liverpool with the opposition managing just 7.4 shots against the Merseysiders. Karius still managed to make a number of key saves in various matches.
His acrobatic stop to thwart James Ward-Prowse during Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Southampton was pivotal in the outcome. Klopp’s men held a 1-0 lead at the time but the Saints had a foothold in the game and were beginning to carve out openings.
Dusan Tadic’s cross was met by Ward-Prowse, who had positioned himself behind Andrew Robertson, and his header appeared to be looping in before Karius managed to tip it over the bar.
At first glance it was nothing special but the former Mainz No.1 had to readjust and get across his line quickly to keep the lead intact. Mohamed Salah scored just before the first half came to a close to give Liverpool a comfortable win.
He repeated the trick against Newcastle United just a few weeks later. Rafael Benitez brought his organised side to Anfield and held out until the 40th minute.
Salah broke the deadlock and the Reds looked set to take a one-goal lead into the break. As normal time edged into stoppage time, the Magpies worked an opening on the edge of the penalty area in a rare foray into the Liverpool half.
Mohamed Diame swung his left foot at the ball and his shot was heading straight for Karius’ top right corner. It appeared as though Newcastle had executed a perfect smash and grab to grab an equaliser. But the Liverpool keeper managed to leap to his right to palm the ball over. It was fingertip stuff, literally.
Karius completed a hat-trick of game-changing saves in a short space of time against West Ham United. The Hammers were the visitors this time and were trailing 1-0 heading into the final few minutes of the first half.
Marko Arnautovic picked the ball up from distance and nothing looked on. The Austrian then unleashed a 30-yard effort which was moving all over the place and heading straight for the keeper’s far left. Karius reacted to palm the ball away for a corner.
Many claimed it was one for the cameras but it was the third time in just over a month the 24-year-old had kept Liverpool in the lead.
The Reds, who ensured Champions League football for a second successive season, only finished five points ahead of Chelsea in the Premier League. In isolation these saves may not have been spectacular, but he repeated the feat in a trio of games. All reflex stops with the game in the balance.
Yes, he’s just doing his job but how many keepers are regularly caught cold having had to do very little in the match beforehand? The former Mainz man played a key role in Liverpool picking up maximum points in those games.
Yet despite his impressive performances for the Reds, there’s talk that he’s set to be replaced this summer. Alisson, Jan Oblak and Jack Butland have all been mooted as Liverpool transfer targets with the latter now the favourite to join Klopp’s Anfield revolution.
His detractors will cite questionable decisions in as reasons to look for an upgrade on Karius. He didn’t, after all, cover himself in glory when he parried a tame effort straight into the path of former Chelsea transfer target Edin Dzeko to equalise for Roma on the night in their Champions League semi-final second leg. He was in no man’s land, too, as Salomon Rondon headed home a late equaliser for West Bromwich Albion.
Karius isn’t perfect. He’s still a work in progress but it’s to be expected. At 24 he’s still young for a goalkeeper and lacking experience at the top level. But that will come.
What should be looked at, however, is his understanding with the Liverpool defence. There’s one there and in the 19 matches he’s started the team, as a collective unit, kept ten clean sheets.
The goals conceded per 90 number dropped from 1.18 when Mignolet kept goal to 0.69. Again, this isn’t directly down to Karius but he has an important part to play in the new-look defensive unit.
Liverpool could undoubtedly sign an upgrade on the one-time Manchester City academy player this summer but there are other areas which need addressing first. He deserves a full season as the starting goalkeeper for Klopp.