Champions League

Liverpool Must Think Big in the Search for a New Keeper

Loris Karius was brutally exposed at the very highest level of the game and left a painfully clear message that an upgrade is desperately needed in goal. For two seasons, Jurgen Klopp has elected either Mingolet or Karius, seemingly in hope rather than conviction that one of them would improve.

Liverpool are now in a position where, once again, they have a lost a cup final with the goalkeeper being largely responsible. The decision on whom they sign is now hugely important as expectations will be swollen for the coming season. In the immediate aftermath of the Champions League final defeat, the club has been linked again with several keepers. However, if they are to move forward with confidence, there is only one real candidate for the position.

Strange inaction

To paraphrase the great Alan Hansen; “You win nothing with a dodgy ‘keeper”. This must be all too painful for Jurgen Klopp and his team as they start a new week ahead of a very long summer after defeat in Kiev.

The German could realistically have won three major trophies at Liverpool in less than three full seasons in charge. It is painful for a club like Liverpool to have won nothing for so long; it is even worse when they should have won a lot more in this barren period. What is more frustrating — and actually a rare stick to beat Klopp with — is the lack of conviction in which the goalkeeping situation has been addressed.

It was clear after 14-15 that Mingolet simply had to go. He was too error prone and unreliable to see Liverpool through a campaign, let alone win a trophy. Where good goalkeepers win you big games, Mingolet was letting shots in at his near post against City and Sevilla as they collected runners-up medals twice in one season.

Signing Loris Karius from Mainz in Germany was also a bit of a puzzler. He was very young, untested, and unorthodox to say the least. It seemed they had done the impossible and actually downgraded from Mingolet. His early howlers and uncertainty led to an odd rotation policy, rather than reaching back out to the scouts abroad and assessing the market. Perhaps Klopp is guilty only of showing too much loyalty, but it has cost him and the club dearly.

Only one option

The last campaign started with a goalkeeping error late on against Watford costing Liverpool all three points and ended with the worst howlers seen in a Champions League Final. The writing is pretty much as large as it could be, on the wall for Liverpool’s senior keepers. Both are likely to leave or be left out and a new man installed.

Alarmingly though, Jack Butland has emerged over the last few weeks as a transfer rumour.  There a no absolutes in football, but going off historical trends, the club really shouldn’t be looking at Keepers operating at the foot of the table. They did it with Mingolet, and as far back at the nineties, with Friedel and James on the books — both of whom were only really suitable for the lower echelons of the Premier League.

It is easy to look convincing at that level, when you are facing a dozen shots on target per match and being called into action all the time.  At a club pushing for the title, chances are you will be called into action once maybe twice a game. The concentration levels have to be as good as the shot stopping and handling ability.

Butland is a decent keeper, but at twenty-five, his career has stalled due to injury and form and his seven caps for England are not very impressive in yet another era, where the number one jersey has been up for grabs. He is also injury prone, which should be a massive concern for a club full of crocks; we really don’t want to be calling on a reserve option with such huge odds at stake next season.

There is no real comparison if we are to compare Butland with another Liverpool target, Alisson Becker of AS Roma.  Brazil’s number one ahead of Edison, is a commanding sweeper keeper, taking crosses at the edge of his six yard box, and has the ability to operate off his line if his team are caught with a high defensive line.

A strong shot stopper and offering excellent distribution, he must surely be considered the number one priority this summer.  He has only had one season as number one with Roma, which does offer some cause for caution, but most seasoned commentators on Italian football have dismissed this and point to his installation as Brazil’s number one as further evidence of his ability.

Value not cost

Should Liverpool really be dipping their toes in the water of England’s number second or third choice, also linked with Wolves and Newcastle? Alisson represents a much better investment; surely it is better to spend £60 million plus on a top class keeper than £30 million on a second rate option who would be likely to flop at the highest level.  If we do have to shell out an eye watering amount on Alisson and subsequently go on to win trophies again with the Brazilian between the sticks, then it would be seen as a wise investment indeed.

It would be disappointing and disheartening to see Alisson slip from our radar.  Real Madrid are also interested, so it is important we move quickly.  There is also a World Cup between now and the middle of August, these pesky tournaments have been known to swell a player’s true value.  It would be ideal if Liverpool could agree a fee now, albeit very difficult with a reluctant selling club.

Such is the mental impact of Karius’s mistakes on Saturday night, it is impossible to see a way back, Mingolet is a thirty year old on £100,000 per week to sit on the bench.  It makes no sense to keep either at the club.  Another summer of inactivity and half-measures with our goalkeepers, would be very costly indeed.

Image credit.

This article was originally published here at Footie Blog #14. For more from Anthony, follow him here

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