Opinion

The Liverpool Goalkeeping Headache

By Alake Motolani

Tea Prepared, But I Need Aspirin

The last true Liverpool goalkeeper to really defy opinions and enjoy vertical acceptance with fans was Bruce Grobbelaar. Till date, his wobbly legs antics still live and breath red fires of angry needs from fans.

Since then, we have had Westerveld, David James, Dudek, Reina and Mignolet as significant names, synonymous with Anfield’s historic goalposts.

Of all those names, Pepe Reina was the one true convincing performer. He won 3 Golden Gloves awards in his first 3 Anfield seasons.

While sections of The Kop respect and even revere his feats, others – this frustrated Scribe included – think Reina excelled due to Rafa Benitez’s defensive culture and the defenders gallantly securing his keep; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia/Agger and Riise/Aurelio/Warnock.

Their cause is partly aided by the terrible, sometimes comical slide in performances and reputation that soon hit Pepe Reina like waves to a fragile ship. Even in his heydays, he had the odd blooper, and it was no surprise that a few fans don’t revere Reina like they should.

Step in, the polarizing Belgian, Simon Mignolet. A respectable shot-stopper, but without much else. Asides being a terrible judge of ball flights, he is a questionable communicator with a less than imposing personality and equally questionable ball playing ability. If Mignolet kicked 10 goal kicks, 9 will be idiotically aimed at 5’7 wingers who get bullied by bigger defenders.

The odd Liverpool fan admired his not so palpable shot-stopping ability, but even they can’t beat their chests over his ridiculous, error-prone performances. His errors are usually suicidal too – Yes, I will save you stats, dear Kopite. You have seen enough goalkeeping pain in this lifetime.

When the Jurgen Klopp’s tornado and brigade came into town, a certain handsome youngster named Loris Karius came with him a year later.

Let’s face it, we all know that story. No need to rehash painful details that might yet continue.

Safe to say, Liverpool have not had a Goalkeeper of genuine class through the Premier League era. What frustrates is the seeming lack of worthy recognition this anomaly attracts from current club owners, Fenway Sports Group, Technical Director, Micheal Edwards and Coach, Jurgen Klopp.

First, we have to understand that asides Barcelona’s fascist dominance of Europe between 2009 and 2015, with a certain Victor Valdes in goal, no genuinely successful team blazed trails with half decent goalkeepers.

If FSG and Klopp really mean business, they should be addressing this anomaly. While some believe that Klopp is being reluctant to sign a goalkeeper, with blind faith in Karius, it betrays reason.

Yes, Jurgen Klopp has shown an annoying penchant for loyalty, sometimes over reason during his 3 years at Liverpool – case in point, Lallana. Klopp is a winner and no manager in world will stick with mediocrity while furnished with sufficient funds to plunder the European transfer market.

A disaster like Karius can’t be a manager’s genuine desire for a first choice. It simply beguiles reason. Though we are all speculating, some things are just easily discernible.

A Lack of Funds?

Personally, I think FSG provided insufficient transfer funds to address all the pressing needs of Liverpool First Team.

After apportioning funds for other equally pressing needs, Liverpool might have some residual funds from the summer kitty to pursue a goalkeeper, but it is probably insufficient to purchase the calibre Klopp desires.

And Klopp, being who he is, has probably decided to not fight the authority, ride it out till next summer, hope it doesn’t fester, while he splashes a significant amount on an Oblak or Alisson next summer.

Uh oh, Problem…

That logic is faulty. We are all privy to Klopp’s sometimes annoying determination to get his first choice targets – Van Dijk and Keita are testaments to that. But applying that argument to this goalkeeper scenario will be comical.

Keita and Van Dijk both wanted Liverpool above all else, miraculously rejecting some top clubs to sign for Liverpool. But even in the Keita scenario, Klopp had to sign a certain Oxlade-Chamberlain whet the appetite pending Keita’s arrival.

In Van Dijk’s case, me might have finished higher up the log if we had a better defender to call on in the first part of the 2017/2018 season. Our bad defending cost us early credentials for a title tilt.

Back to our goalkeeper madness, Klopp’s targets, Alisson and Oblak don’t want Liverpool – at least, Alisson has reportedly made that clear, if word on the street holds any salt. With Oblak, we can’t know for sure. Personally, I think he might end up at PSG.

Even if we had the money, there are no guarantees that either pines on his pillow for Liverpool every night, while his missus cuddles him to sleep – Fernando Torres, 2007 style.

So What is Klopp Waiting Around For Then?

Over the past 2 years, Liverpool have been linked to more goalkeepers than MTV VMA hosts change clothes over their ephemeral 90 minute responsibilities of bland humour and bear poking… *deep breaths* forgive my digression, being a Liverpool fan is hard at this time… Anger issues.

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Jurgen Klopp seems confused and I think the scouting set up should take some heat too. How could you not have backup targets to Alisson and Oblak? How could you let your ego lull you into that ditch of short-sightedness?

Journalists who enjoy pseudo-mob ties with Liverpool have repeatedly claimed Klopp thinks none of the remaining Goalkeepers ACROSS ALL OF EUROPE! are better than Karius and Mignolet. Blimey! I need a strong drink... What??!!

While only a few Goalkeepers can stand in the Alisson or Oblak stead, there are definitely a lot of goalkeepers who will perform admirably and reduce the regular, nigh expected heartache potential and high blood pressure checks.

That goalkeeper does not have to be spectacular. All he has to be is respectable and be filed with potential. With proper scouting, Liverpool would have identified one or two potentials.

I pity Karius, he was starting to intermittently look the part for Liverpool before May 26, 2018 in Kiev. He had key point saving performances against Everton, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham and a few other games in Liverpool’s 2nd half of the 2017/2018 campaign. But that’s dead now. The man has a severe crisis of confidence and I feel sorry for him.

My sentiment would like to see him buccaneer his way, pillaging rivals and other goalkeepers to be the top man in world football, fairytale style, but we need to be reasonable, safe and ambitious.

Liverpool Football Club has not been this close to perfection in a long time. It’s high time we had recognized that and acted accordingly. It is the ambition FSG cynics want to see. They want to see the club recognize what they see. With Managers like Sarri and Emery coming into the Premier League and the funds their owners are throwing around, it might be make or break time for Liverpool and FSG.

It might be time to lay claim to the upper echelons of European football or remain stagnant in a way the only ends in receding levels after losing star players. Make no mistake, another season without trophies is eerie for Liverpool, because we have sought after stars. It’s time to stop being a stepping stone, and be the bar stars run towards.

Steps to that includes not walking into the Premier League season with Mignolet, Karius and Ward as our only first team Goalkeepers. Even if Goalkeeper trainer, John Achterberg, a regular feature through all the terrible goalkeeping nightmares stays for another season.

Perspective

The problem with Klopp thinking no Goalkeeper across Europe is that a strong prospect like Thomas Strakosha is cheaper now. €25 million might sign him.

If Klopp waits another year, and he ends up with neither Oblak nor Alisson, he will have to resort to one of those prospects he rejected and might need to pay even more outrageous sums to sign them. Why not sign one of them for cheaper sums this summer, and nurture his talent like we know he can while Liverpool sack Achterberg?

While Klopp might keep saying nothing is better than Karius, there definitely can’t be worse than Karius. It’s better to attempt failure than lie down and resign to fate so the bad future does not occur, only to bemoan the decision to neglect action.

John Achterberg

Next summer, if Klopp ends up going back in for one of the options he snubbed this summer for double the price, it would have been stupid. For perspective, Pickford was one of the goalkeepers Klopp claimed was not better than what he had last summer.

Pickford might not be world class yet, but he definitely isn’t as big a problem as Karius or Mignolet. Someone in his caliber might just be sufficient, but his case leads me to another point.

Karius was highly rated before Liverpool, so was Mignolet. Liverpool might be a bigger demon to crack than Everton, but it’s telling that if Pickford had signed for Liverpool last summer, he might currently be a pariah than a Three Lions Mainstay.

Goalkeepers need good mental strength, but talent goes a distance. Karius is definitely not short on it. You can’t conveniently argue that he’s of lesser tent than Pickford questions his mental strength and speculatively confirms the ineptitude of John Achterberg.

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Former Liverpool Goalkeepers like Peter Gulasci and Brad Jones have left to go perform better elsewhere. Why is Achterberg still at Liverpool? Why don’t we have Atlético Madrid’s trainer who has nurtured and trained 3 straight World Class Goalkeepers from mere prospects?

Liverpool should certainly probe the Achterberg angle.

Discourse

You can’t put all your eggs in one basket, especially not as a Liverpool Manager. It’s the time for decisive action and that involves getting a good goalkeeper this summer. Walking into the season with known shaky hands should be outlawed at Liverpool.

It’s not enough to say you were blindsided by the sudden scramble or do not have enough options on your hands. What was the scouting team doing? If that involves paying good money, then we should pay it. Ederson is one of the reasons Manchester City blazed trails to the Premier League title last season.

Keylor Navas

One option Liverpool should look at is Keylor Navas. At 31, he is a good age for a Goalkeeper and will definitely come with better reputation and higher confidence than Karius or even Ward.

Nonetheless, I speculate Klopp might still have his heart on Oblak. So he’s playing a little intelligent politics of exhibition and consequence for FSG by continuing to field his questionable options, hoping it miraculously leads FSG and Mike Gordon to loosen the purse strings to fix a visibly pertinent problem.

Ward

I like Ward. He’s got incredible talent mixed with good vocal and demanding presence, agility, flexibility and personality. He looks confident, even looking at him.

I like the idea of giving him a shot, even though I’d rather a proven hand. He might yet shock us all and I am here for that fairytale. I would like to see him succeed, but I’d rather have a safety net in case it all goes bonkers… Again.

Finally Sipping My Tea

I pray this was all a pointless article and the silence at Liverpool has a Fabinho-sized ending.

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