The general consensus has been that while Liverpool continues to improve, the goalkeeping situation at the club has become untenable, and that the Reds will need to move on from Simon Mignolet in the summer.
With names like Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak, PSG’s Kevin Trapp, Stoke City’s Jack Butland, and Samir Handanovic all thrown around, the seat between the sticks at Anfield has been heating up.
Loris Karius has other ideas.
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Signed for just $8 million in the summer of 2016, the 24-year-old German was thought of largely as a backup to Mignolet, and it’s been that way until just a few weeks ago. Having snatched the starting job from his Belgian counterpart after solid performances against Leicester City and Manchester City, Karius suddenly has a chance to not just lead Liverpool down the stretch run of a promising season, but potentially save the club millions of dollars this summer.
But could Karius really be the long-term option for Liverpool in goal? The sample size is small, but he’s showing promise the last few weeks.
The 2-0 win over Southampton was one of his best performances in a Liverpool shirt.
His recognition to notice danger before the chance was truly created allowed him to charge strongly off his line and stop a shot by Pierre-Emile Hojberg. He initially came to collect a cross by Dusan Tadic, but once it was clear he wouldn’t reach it, instead of finding himself caught in no-man’s land, he again recognized a play before it happened and back-tracked in time to acrobatically stop James Ward-Prowse‘s header.
And finally, Karius is even involved in the build-up to Liverpool’s first goal, correctly finding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in acres of space on the counter.
Against Tottenham, Karius came off his line to smother a big chance from Heung-Min Son with the Liverpool defense out of sorts, charging down the striker while stopping himself just short as to not concede a penalty. Karius’s ability to come off his line with precision will make Liverpool fans beam with glee, as Mignolet struggled mightily with that aspect of his game.
Karius has been a significant improvement over Simon Mignolet in general this season, with a significant advantage in his WhoScored rating (6.72 for Karius vs. 6.49 for Mignolet in Premier League play), while he also owns a far superior Squawka.com rating for the season (101.89 for Karius vs. 29.07 for Mignolet) thanks in large part to a better saves per goal tally (1.43 for Karius, 1.21 for Mignolet). He’s also not made a defensive error yet this season, according to Squawka, while Mignolet wrapped up three. The distribution numbers still favors Mignolet, but Karius has been able to have an effect up front in that department despite not having the consistency.
However, not all is where it needs to be. Against Manchester City, for example, Leroy Sane beat Karius at his near post from a tight angle with a shot a top goalkeeper should be saving.
Against Spurs, Karius did concede a penalty for coming out of net and fouling Harry Kane, but it was hard to blame the keeper after a laughable mis-kick from Dejan Lovren left him completely exposed and with few options.
The German will get plenty of chances to prove his worth, as Jurgen Klopp said he will likely stick with Karius in goal for Champions League play as well, giving him ample time to both impress and improve, or prove it’s all a fad.
Is Karius suddenly a hidden gem in the process of revealing itself to the Premier League and the world? Or is this a flash in the pan? If his form continues, will it be enough to allow Liverpool to focus its resources elsewhere this summer, or will they still feel compelled to reach into the coffers to improve at the position? It all remains to be seen, but the last few weeks have complicated the situation, if nothing else.