The goalkeeper is the most damning position in all of sport. It’s one of the few positions whereby if you make an error, it’s incredibly difficult to immediately atone for your troubles.
You can’t go out and score a goal after missing the open net soon earlier. You can’t go out and throw a touchdown minutes after throwing the ball to the opposition team.
As team sports go, the goalkeeper is a one-man island where if things do go wrong it’s absolutely on the goalkeeper and if things continue to go wrong then there’s no alternative – he is the problem and something must be done to fix it.
But as all this happens, it’s incredibly difficult for the goalkeeper to develop his ability or more preferably to show his true skillset.
People always say you have to be a bit mad to be a goalkeeper. Maybe this is because no matter how good they are any hint of indecisiveness or erroneous behaviour is magnified to the millionth degree.
That can’t be good for the mind. It is them, their box and a million set of eyes waiting for them to absolutely fuck something up. No wonder they’re all mad.
Liverpool haven’t had much luck with goalkeepers over the years.
In the Premier League era they’ve sat arse-clenched in fear at the thoughts of David “Calamity” James, the wildly unpredictable Sander Westerveld or the good-but-not-great Jerzy Dudek making another mistake.
Pepe Reina was a welcome trusted hand for some time, but even he was prone to a bad moment of judgement. On an aside, he’s still probably the best goalkeeper Liverpool could start right now.
Amongst all that Liverpool have managed to operate an infamous conveyor belt of horrendous number twos – from Pegguy Arphexad to Diego Cavalieri, Alexander Doni to the now-removed-from-history Charles Itandje.
The current situation with Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet is an issue all well avoided if the German had only kept his mouth shut when confronted with further criticisms over his performances.
He waged a war of words with Gary Neville, managed to drop Jamie Carragher right in the middle of it, and all for his manager to try and soften the situation by defending his summer signing.
Ultimately, Jurgen Klopp was left with the indisputable decision to bench Karius and take him out of the limelight.
The decision has since proved correct, with back-to-back away wins and even more impressive back-to-back clean sheets.
Simon Mignolet is suddenly appearing to be a behemoth in goals – sent to save Liverpool fans from the well-groomed soft mitts of Karius.
But in reality, he’s still the ultra-mistake-prone Mignolet whom we await the unwelcome return of as soon as Liverpool face a threatening enough opponent.
Some blame is, rather understandably, being placed on John Achterberg – the goalkeeper coach who has ushered the undevelopment of goalkeeping at the club.
But is there any real coaching for the nervy demeanour Mignolet brings about with himself and parachutes throughout his defence?
It’s hard to be a goalkeeper. Just ask David De Gea. He faced an unholy amount of abuse when he arrived to English shores, tasked with the job of replacing Edwin van der Sar in goal.
His first 18 months must have been a lonely, miserable existence for the Spaniard in rainy Manchester. But he was given time to develop, backed patiently by Sir Alex Ferguson – a one last parting gift to a club which may be far, far worse off now had it not De Gea in goals over the past few years.
I’m not saying Loris Karius will reach the heights of his Spanish comrade in goal, but there’s no reason he can’t without the appropriate backing and development.
He will be back between the sticks before the season is out and at 23 there is an enormous ceiling to reach for. Just a few months previously, Karius was in a category behind only Manuel Neuer in Bundesliga goalkeeper conversations.
Any consideration to banish Karius to the graveyard of forgettable Liverpool goalkeepers is premature and Klopp knows better.
Time, patience, and perhaps a more reliable defensive back-four are required to easy Karius into the cut-and-thrust of English football.
At 23 though, and as so famously showcased in the rise of David De Gea, there’s no point giving up on the project yet.
But next time Loris, keep your mouth shut – you’re not doing yourself any favours.
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