The Premier League isn’t exactly like other leagues. For better or worse, the long standing narrative has been that England’s top flight is a fair bit more physical than other top leagues. No where is this more obvious than in the penalty area during set plays, a time and a place where normal rules of the game—indeed, the rules of civilized society—are suspended, allowing players to kick, claw, grab, and punch their opponents in an attempt to score or prevent being scored on.
For goalkeepers coming into the league, the learning curve can be steep. So far, Loris Karius is no exception. He very well might be the goalkeeper of the future, but his performances so far have done little to prevent a bit of hand-wringing among the Liverpool faithful.
However, Klopp & Co. have a solution for training, one that involves goalkeeping coach John Achterberg and rugby tackle pads.
“John Achterberg usually does it with his hands but it’s better to use something else!” Klopp explained. “First, as a ’keeper you have to learn the technique, then you have to adapt to the real circumstances – having six or seven players around you.
“No-one gets out of your way. It is completely the opposite. They want to disturb your way. That wasn’t a specific preparation for Crystal Palace. It was specific training for goalkeepers in the Premier League. West Brom was the same and it was pretty much the same against Manchester United. That’s goalkeeping life. You can’t change this. We need to prepare the boys and that’s what John is doing.”
Since arriving on the coaching staff in 2009, Achterberg oversaw the decline in form of both Pepe Reina and Simon Mignolet, and has thus been a constant source of complaints among Liverpool supporters. That said, Klopp seems to trust him, so hopefully his rugby training will pay off for young Karius. Just don’t go after the face. Or hair.