Number one or number two? It’s a loaded question for manager Jürgen Klopp as he’s been inundated of late with head-scratching journalists who can’t quite get behind the idea of any team making use of more than one goalkeeper. Simon Mignolet has been asked to step aside twice so far this season to make way for the burgeoning Loris Karius. Mignolet was not injured or sick. His pear farm wasn’t destroyed. Nothing at all caused Klopp to sit the Belgian shot stopper save for the manager’s intent on creating a competitive environment amongst Liverpool’s goalkeepers that ultimately benefits the squad.
“That’s how it is,” said Klopp. “Sometimes it’s the easiest thing for me, because I’m the boss, I can decide things like this and the player’s have to take it.
“What I think is that we need strong goalkeepers. We cannot every year find a new number two, number three, whatever.
“We have young goalkeepers in the best age and they all are ready to play. All of them. So, we have to use this situation for the good of the club.
“I can do it. I did it. And I will do it again.”
We shouldn’t be surprised to see Danny Ward take up the spot between the sticks for any and all domestic cup competitions then. With Karius and Mignolet trading off in the Premier League and Champions League matches.
When asked if Mignolet would return to the position against Burnley, Klopp’s response was, “Of course.”
“Simon Mignolet is number one. At the end of the season he will have eighty-five or eighty-seven percent of all games, I think. Is that a number one? For me it’s a number one.”
Klopp is clearly not interested in having to repeatedly discuss his decisions to repetitive journalists at press conferences. He doesn’t like to restate the same information twice but he’s up against a nervous fanbase that has growing concerns over the defensive togetherness in the team as a whole. And for many, solidity begins at the way back.
“There will be other games. Like the last one in the Champions League, Loris Karius played. And because he played against Arsenal I think he was really ready for the game.
“He played really well. Obviously, the crowd needs to get a little bit used to his style of play. But this is modern football.
“He takes the ball and has a cool build up. I can’t remember one mistake. He’s in good shape. He’s a good goalkeeper. Good for us. That’s all.”
Liverpool’s defensive issues are squad-wide, for sure, and aren’t a direct result of cycling goalkeepers. And Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Ragnar Klavan, these players can take the chaos up a notch but ultimately the problems are happening everywhere. The right back position is in flux with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez rotating in and out due to Nathaniel Clyne’s long absence. The center backs are being rotated frequently due to having a lack of quality depth to call on. Staving off injury seems to be the name of that game.
Long-term benefits, I know. And I like it. But in the short term the worry is that a growing feeling of inconsistencies weakens the side. Who’s going to be vocal and commanding? And who’s going to be commanding and vocal? Let’s lock this down.