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Standing Tall? On Loris Karius and Liverpool’s Goalkeeping Conundrum

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Karius put on a strong display between the sticks. But what does that mean for the long run?

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Loris was eager to show he could take photos while not looking wistfully away from the camera. 1 out of 2, Loris.
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

After the (chalk)dust settled on what turned out to be an electric shootout between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, one person loomed a bit larger on the pitch than the others: Loris Karius. Rebuffing a resurgent Spurs side that looked most likely to score in that second half and to come up a bad penalty call short of walking away with the spoils, Karius was this scribe’s Man of the Match. His strongest individual performance in Red - including a penalty save on England’s Harry Kane - Loris had every right to puff out his chest. The keeper, though, struck a humble tone and credited study as an aid in making the crucial stop:

“I [didn’t] just stand up, I watch the strikers before the game.

”I knew he was the number one penalty taker so I looked at it and it felt like in the big games he tended to go a bit to the middle.

”So I made the decision to stand up in the middle and react and it paid off. You have to get a bit of luck sometimes but have a better chance if you look at it like this.”

Liverpool fandom is currently divided over our keeping situation and for those that are strongly in support of Loris Karius as the future for the club between the posts (or are vehemently anti-Waffles ever lining up in Red again), that performance went a long way to making their case. In fact, of Karius’ 4 saves yesterday, 3 came from inside the 18 - including a header from the center of goal by Kane and the aforementioned penalty stop.

However, yesterday’s match was also the first multiple save match by Karius in the league. And his season-long save percentage in the league with that terrific game (67% for the match) sits at 53%. The worst of all other starting GKs in the Prem and four percentage points lower than Simon Mignolet’s average.

Of course, caveats abound: Karius has only had 7 starts in the league to Simon’s 19, which makes it hard to compare global statistics with the gap in minutes. And while we may be stingy - we concede the second fewest shots per game on average - we also tend to concede them from prime positions: nearly two thirds of our shots conceded come from inside the 18 or closer. In that last point, it must be stated that this seems to be a feature and not a bug in Klopp’s system: our CBs and GK are placed under pressure in prime offensive positions due to the way the rest of the team is set up.

Ultimately, while this was an undeniably strong game from Karius, it does not put to bed the questions at keeper and potential winter summer signings. Nor does it end the speculation around their embattled goalkeeping coach:

And while it was great to see such a prime performance, it’s important to remember that the keeper he’s just displaced had quite the auspicious start to his own Liverpool career.