Another summer transfer window is upon us, clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and even Everton have made some headline grabbing acquisitions. Liverpool have to date purchased two attacking players in Mohammad Salah and Dominic Solanke who will give them additional options in the attacking third, and a full back in Scottish international, Andy Robertson. However, my concerns are defensively, and this article looks at the goalkeeper position, and do Liverpool need a commanding presence between the sticks. Do they need an upgrade if they are indeed to compete at the very highest level for honours this season?
Much has been paid on social media on Liverpool’s pursuit of central defender Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton, a player I rate highly and I have no doubt if he can show the form and consistency he has played at for the last two seasons, he would be a serious upgrade for the club. I believe if this happens it is again an upgrade in this position, but I also believe Liverpool should be looking at bringing in a strong, confident and commanding figure to play in goals.
At the start of last season, Simon Mignolet the incumbent number one for Liverpool was expected to be pushed all the way for his position by at the time new signing, Loris Karius. Karius did indeed get his chance early in the season, but after a few nervy moments, Mignolet was installed back in the starting position, and indeed finished the season strongly, making vital contributions and certainly, his performances aided Liverpool to finish in the top four, thus qualifying for Champions League Football.
Belgian international Mignolet joined Liverpool from Sunderland in 2013 for a reported fee of £9 million. The 29-year-old, during his career at Liverpool, there have been some good performances but there have been numerous errors made in other games, watching the player a lot, he looks a player that lacks confidence at crucial times and even in games where he is playing well, he does not instil me with confidence that an error is not that far away, so if I feel this way, I just wonder if his team mates have similar thoughts?
Using statistics provided by Squawka, Mignolet’s save ratio to shots on target is relatively low in comparison to the top goalkeepers in the league such as Manchester United’s David De Gea, Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris and Chelsea goalkeeper and fellow Belgian international, Thibaut Courtois. Out of the 42 goalkeepers rated in The Premier League last season, Mignolet was ranked in 22nd place. Now with statistics, it does not always tell you the whole story, however, with the reservations over the player that I have just from own opinion, seeing this statistic does not change my thought process.
Loris Karius was purchased last summer from the German side, Mainz 05 for a reported fee of £4.7 million. Karius is a player that especially in Germany is highly thought of and they have expectations for the 24-year-old keeper. In appearances for Liverpool and in games I have seen him play for Mainz 05, he is very athletic, with sharp reflexes, unlike Mignolet, he looks very comfortable with the ball at his feet dealing with back passes. However, Karius looks unsure on crosses, and in The Premier League, this is a vital skill to have. In my view I still have not made any decision on the career at Liverpool of the goalkeeper, he is young, and some keepers need a season or two in The Premier League to adjust to the rigours and demands of this league, just look at how David De Gea started his Manchester United career. Just as a reference point according to Squawka, Karius ranked 30th goalkeeper in the league.
The third senior keeper Liverpool has on their books is Welsh international Danny Ward. The 24-year-old has for the last two seasons been loaned out to Aberdeen and Huddersfield Town respectively to gain experience. Last season, Ward had a very good season with Huddersfield, concluding with his penalty saves gaining Huddersfield promotion to The Premier League for the first time in their history. He is a very decent goalkeeper, and seems a confident individual, again, very comfortable with his feet with back passes which are important in modern day football. However, at this stage to expect Ward to play regularly for a team expecting to be competing for domestic and European trophies is a step too far in my view.
Liverpool will cause opposing teams a lot of problems with their attacking intent next season, Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohammad Salah and Daniel Sturridge just to name a few, will create chances and no doubt finish a number of them, but they still need to be solid defensively. There will be tight games, where they will need to be robust and come away with a one goal win, therefore a top goalkeeper in my view is required.
Ideally, you would want a goalkeeper who has Premier League experience, or at the very least played at the top levels in their respective leagues. Looking at keepers who might be available for a decent price one name in particular leaps out with these parameters is Leicester City goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel. The Danish international played a huge part in the astounding League success in 2015, and last season, played in The Champions League. He is a strong confident individual, and similarly to his dad, is a leader and has a real presence about him. At only 30 years of age, he is an ideal age for a keeper, and Liverpool could have him in goals for a number of years yet.
As Liverpool fans, let’s just let our imagination go for a while, think of a starting line up, where your goalkeeper is Kasper Schmeichel, defence in front of him of Nathaniel Clyne, Andrew Robertson, Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk. A midfield of Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Phillipe Coutinho and an attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Mohammad Salah and Roberto Firmino. A team that would push anyone in the league. Could be a special season Liverpool fans.
By Craig Muncey