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01st Oct 2016

Loris Karius has got away with it so far – but now it’s crunch time for him AND Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool's new goalkeeper is yet to convince

Tony Barrett

Up to now, Loris Karius has got away with it.

Whether it is a reluctance to leave his line when crosses come in, a struggle to judge the flight of balls tossed in from wide areas, a disinclination to take risks as he looks to settle in or a combination of all three, Liverpool’s new goalkeeper is yet to convince. While such weaknesses have been highlighted, though, they are yet to be punished.

A flap at a corner on his debut against Derby County did not cost a goal and while further hesitancy in Liverpool’s next two matches at home to Hull City and away to Swansea City might have contributed to cheap goals being conceded, Karius could not be held solely responsible on either occasion and on both his team prevailed so any damage was superficial.

Signed to challenge Simon Mignolet with the expectation that he would replace him, Karius has already achieved that objective but having won his place in a Liverpool side that is showing promising signs that it could challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title, he has not been provided with any guarantees by Jurgen Klopp that he will keep it.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Simon Mignolet of Liverpool reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on May 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

Today at the Liberty Stadium, Karius’s performance was not one which demanded that he should be dropped but nor was it one that indicated he should be retained at all costs. Again, he was part of a winning Liverpool team but again the Germany international bore the hallmarks of a young goalkeeper struggling to come to terms with a new style of football in a new country.

If Liverpool’s next fixture was a home game against Sunderland, having a player who is still acclimatising to new surroundings would not be such an issue but unfortunately for Klopp, who would prefer not to have to make another major decision in such a key position, it is Manchester United who will arrive at Anfield once the international break is out of the way.

Not only is that the kind of fixture which can make or break most players, let alone one who is still finding his feet, United’s potency at set pieces is such that having a keeper who does not know whether he should stay or go when crosses come into the area could be a major problem. At the very least, Jose Mourinho would look to exploit the weaknesses that Karius has displayed thus far.

It was only just over a week ago that Klopp’s decision to select Karius to face Hull looked to have settled the debate over who was Liverpool’s first choice goalkeeper but just two matches on the situation seems less clear cut. Ideally, Klopp would have wanted Karius to come in, look assured, get the basics right and create an instant rapport with his defence but in all of these elements there have been grey areas of the kind that inevitably give managers food for thought.

There is nothing straightforward about the decision that now faces Klopp. Recall Mignolet and the risk is that Karius’s confidence could take an early knock and the process of integrating him into the team is set back. Keep faith with Karius and the possibility exists that United will take advantage of him while he is still coming to terms with life at Liverpool and that could be damaging to both player and team.

SWANSEA, WALES - OCTOBER 01: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

To add to that dilemma, Klopp also has to take into account both the short term need for a positive result and the long term need to build a team that is capable of sustaining a challenge at the top of the Premier League this season and beyond.

If Karius is as good as the Liverpool manager believes, maybe he needs protecting but, equally, perhaps he needs indulging until the time comes when he has settled and made the goalkeeper position unquestionably his own.

Klopp believes one of his strongest qualities is patience and the faith he has shown in several players continues to reap its rewards as underlined by Swansea becoming the fourth team in succession to suffer defeat at Liverpool’s hands. A number of individuals who could have been dispensed with have been persevered with and Klopp’s judgement has been proven to be pretty sound in that respect.

But as with anyone managing at the elite level, his judgement is continually being put to the test and it will be again before Liverpool face United.

Unless there are fitness issues that give him unexpected selection dilemmas, the one big decision that will confront him will be who plays in goal.

In itself, that is a huge sign of progress for Liverpool and a sign of their own growing consistency but it is also one that Klopp will know he needs to get right. 


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