26th May 2018. The Olympic Stadium in Kiev. The Champions League final. A free-scoring Liverpool against 12 times winners, and all-conquering Real Madrid. A stage to showcase the best in European football, and the worst night of Loris Karius’s young career.
At the start of the night, Liverpool’s German goalkeeper had the most clean sheets in Europe’s top competition in the 2017/18 season. Many felt he had turned a corner following his promotion to become Jurgen Klopp’s number one ahead of Belgian Simon Mignolet.
By the end of the game, he had fallen lower than he had previously. Making mistakes in a 4-3 defeat to Bournemouth is one thing, conceding two goals to horrendous errors in the Champions League final reduced the man to an emotional wreck, apologising to the fans at the final whistle.
In spite of his two high-profile errors that night, which have provoked much analysis and debate Liverpool should not be so hasty to rid themselves of the German shot-stopper.
Tactically, Liverpool have become more astute at defending with a flat back four featuring England starlet Trent Alexander-Arnold, Scottish left-back Andy Robertson and much improved Dejan Lovren. This served to help the Reds achieve a Champions League spot for a second successive season and allowed them to progress to the very game where Karius’s flaws were laid bare.
Karius had kept the most clean sheets (6) in the 2017/18 Champions League season. In 2018, Liverpool have decreased their goals conceded to just under a goal per game (0.92). This is, partly, due to the arrival of Virgil van Dijk – a £75m signing from Southampton – but also because of the establishment of a fixed number one in Karius.
Heading into the 2018 summer transfer window, Liverpool fans have been persistent in their calls for a new goalkeeper following the shambolic showing in Kiev.
AS Roma’s Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson appeared to top the list, with Atletico Madrid‘s Jan Oblak being a more fantasy signing. Having had most of the World Cup to sample the former’s ability, I remain unconvinced of his ability. The Brazilian looked far from convincing in the group stages against limited opposition, and after all, conceded seven to Liverpool in the semi-finals of the Champions League last season.
The high price Roma demand, around £75m, after losing Mohamed Salah so cheaply last season is simply not worth paying for a repeat of the mistakes Liverpool fans have been accustomed to seeing at Anfield.
In Liverpool’s first game since Kiev, Karius was again named in the starting lineup. His name received cheers as it was announced over the announcer as he stepped out to face Chester. That is precisely what we need to do as a fan base – support our players. What he did was nigh-on bad, but it doesn’t erase the fact Karius helped us in getting to the club’s first Champions League final in 11 years.