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Reina: "It's Not About Keeping Clean Sheets"

Currently third in clean sheets kept among Premier League goalkeepers, Pepe Reina commented on the improvements he's made this season, as well as the need for Liverpool to strike a better balance between attack and defense.

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Laurence Griffiths

Of the categories in which Liverpool find themselves among the league's leaders--few as they may be--the one that consistently elicits the most surprise is clean sheets kept. With 13 in total, they're just two behind Manchester City, and after 0-0 draws with West Ham and Reading over the past two weeks, Pepe Reina increased his individual total to 11, leaving him in third place, behind only Joe Hart and Petr Cech.

The surprise comes both collectively and for Reina as an individual; Liverpool's points total doesn't necessarily match up with a side that's second in the league in blanking the opposition, and while the Spaniard's had some excellent seasons in goal on Merseyside, the current campaign has included some of his more memorable errors to date.

Given the club's tendency to score and concede in bunches, though, the numbers aren't all that surprising. Rather, they fall nicely in line with the inconsistencies that have marred Liverpool's season, with displays of offensive efficiency and defensive steel undercut by individual errors and profligacy. And, as has been the case of late, those inconsistencies have been highlighted from within the squad, this time by Reina:

"I'm happy but there should be more. It's not about keeping clean sheets, it's about finding the right balance between attack and defence. Because of our position in the league, we haven't found it quite yet. I'm happy because we've already kept more clean sheets than last season but there's still plenty of room to improve it.

"As I said a few months back, there have been a few ups and downs. The start of the season was a bit rough to me; since November/December, I have probably turned the corner and picked the form up again. Hopefully it will stay for long. As I always do, I do my best and work hard on a daily basis. I looked after myself a little bit better in the last few months and tried to be as fit as possible."

His play over the past few months hasn't belied that assessment, with a number of vintage performances since the turn of the new year. A handful of important saves at Reading last weekend salvaged a point for Liverpool in a match when the right balance Reina mentions was very much offset by the club's lack of finishing and Alex McCarthy's display at the end opposite Reina.

Talk has cooled of a summer exit for a man who had been linked with a return to Spain, and if the corner truly has been turned, there's really no need for talk to continue. It's now a matter of that balance being struck on a more consistent basis, and for it not to be such a surprise that Liverpool find themselves among the league's best in anything.

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