Of the many sources of anxiety over the past few seasons, one of the more constant has been the form of goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who's been more liability than stalwart in recent times. The nadir was perhaps his form under Roy Hodgson, but it certainly didn't get any better with Kenny Dalglish at the helm, and while performances over the past month have improved, there's a lingering sense of uncertainty and concern when it comes to having Pepe Reina in goal.
Prior to the start of the season this understandably led to talk that Brendan Rodgers would be looking to bring in a new number one--Michel Vorm, who excelled both in goal and as the type of goalkeeper-outfield player hybrid that Rodgers demands, was linked, and Jack Butland, who made his full England debut earlier this year at just 19 years old and is considered one of the more promising prospects in the country.
Much of this discussion died down as time passed, and Brad Jones' capable deputizing as Reina sat out injured for over a month was a markedly encouraging development. And the Spaniard's return, while still inconsistent, has seen Liverpool keep three clean sheets in their last five and the player's most confident performance in recent memory in the 0-0 draw with Swansea.
With January approaching, though, he's again the focus of transfer talk, whether it's regarding another move to Arsenal or bringing in the previously mentioned Butland or Ron-Robert Zieler, the young German goalkeeper who started his career with Manchester United before joining Hannover and quickly rising to first-choice.
And while all or none of these rumors might come to fruition eventually, Brendan Rodgers asserts that January will see no changes in the goalkeeping pecking order:
"I don't like to talk about speculation as I've know in my time at Liverpool the names we have been linked with has been incredible. But what is worth putting on record is that I'm not looking for another goalkeeper. We have been linked with lots of goalkeepers. I have two very good goalkeepers - Pepe Reina and Brad Jones, who is a very loyal and capable number two. Any areas we look to improve will be in other areas."
He goes on to both acknowledge Reina's struggles and praise his work ethic in what's essentially an unequivocal denial that there's anything in the Butland or Zieler rumors. I can't help but feel that this is a denial for right now, or at least for January, more accurately. If Reina's recent improvements hold, talk in the summer should go away. If the up-and-down displays continue, however, there's no question that Rodgers and company will have to start to look elsewhere.
Given that the player's a sentimental favorite I think we're all hoping for the former, both for him and the club.