It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Liverpool and Loris Karius in recent weeks. There was many a scratched head when the German was handed the starting spot over Simon Mignolet back in January, and the 24-year old’s shocking 50% save rate was presented as a plausible argument he had no business starting ahead of his Belgian competitor.
It looked like a blunder on Jürgen Klopp’s part in the early going. While the 4-3 win over Manchester City was a sensational result, Karius made only a single save, and when he conceded the first shot on target in a perplexing loss to Swansea a week later, the expectation was that the experiment was over.
As he is wont to do, however, Klopp persisted, and a penalty save and a tremendous rush off his line to close down Heung-Min Son salvaged a point at White Hart Lane, giving fans new hope that perhaps Karius could come good after all. Since then, Liverpool have played five matches with the former Mainz stopper between the sticks, conceding only a single goal in the process, and since he was handed the job at the turn of the year, the German has accumulated a save rate of 72%, picking up six clean sheets from nine matches.
With three straight in the Champions League, and having easily dispatched Porto in the round of 16, it makes sense that the Reds are confident going into the quarter-finals. Karius most certainly is.
“Of course I’m confident. We’re playing well and getting good results, so there’s no reason not to be confident,” the stopper told the official site. “But you can’t rest on that, you have to show it week in, week out. I want to develop more, get better every week and have good games for the club. Hopefully it’s only the beginning.”
“It was an aim for us,” he continued. “To build on the recent form of not conceding many goals and having a lot of clean sheets. That’s always a good thing for me and for the whole team. 90 per cent of the time, if we keep a clean sheet we win the game – because we score up front – but it’s a good thing.”
That’s just about as bland as you’d expect from the German-engineered handsomebot, but there’s no denying the truth of it; if the current incarnation of the Reds can keep a clean sheet, they’ll usually win the game on account of their explosive frontline.
Whether Karius alone is responsible for the newfound defensive solidity, or if a combination of tactical adjustments and the introduction of Virgil van Dijk have contributed more significantly is up for debate, but as the man himself said, the end result is undeniably a good thing, and at this point in the season, that’s all that matters.