Heading into the new season, summer signing Loris Karius, was scheduled to be Liverpool’s number 1 choice in between the sticks until a broken arm saw Simon Mignolet continue in goal.
Jurgen Klopp had made it known that the German youngster was his preferred option after sanctioning his signing from Mainz 05 right at the beginning of the summer transfer window, and the 23-year-old arrived to displace Mignolet who was responsible for as much as 4 errors leading to goals last season.
However, Karius’ injury saw the Belgium international remain in goal until the Chelsea clash. Conceding 8 goals in all his 5 league games prior to his benching was partly down to a weak defence.
But as highlighted during Wednesday’s international friendly against Netherlands, Mignolet’s ability to win possession in the defensive third – a virtue Liverpool could use with their style of play stands him out of the pack.
No goalie in the topflight has won more possession in the defensive third than the 28-year -old (69) since the start of 2015-16, and that prompts asking if Klopp was right to make Karius the number one goalkeeper ahead of Mignolet.
With the former Dortmund manager having his ideal kind of goalie in mind – one good with the ball at his feet, able to help the team press higher on the pitch, and most importantly not prone to unnecessary errors, Mignolet was never going to make the cut, and getting dropped from the starting XI was long foreseen.
His performances last season weren’t all that assuring, and it was pertinent Liverpool got it right in goal if they are to make anything out of their subsequent campaigns.
In 34 Premier League appearances, Mignolet kept 11 clean sheets – a decent return for a goalie. But his stats weren’t the most impressive, at least when compared to Karius’ who made the same number of Bundesliga appearances before his EPL switch.
While the Manchester City understudy goalie kept 2 less clean sheets, his overall performances obviously convinced Liverpool to make a move for his signature after months of scouting.
Karius averaged the same number of goals conceded per game with Mignolet (1.24), but was better off in terms of average saves per game (2.53 to Mignolet’s 1.53) and average saves per goal (2.10 to 1.27)
The young goalie also came out tops when it comes to average claim success and average punches per game. While Mignolet boasted of 82% and 38% respectively, Karius averaged 96% and 44% in same areas. His ball-playing ability also saw him record a higher distribution length (48 meters) than the Belgian (32 meters)
The German, despite some nervous moments upon overcoming his injury setback and walking straight into the starting lineup, has proven why he is better suited as Liverpool’s number one thus far.
He has kept only one clean sheet (though he has played 1 more game than Mignolet), and despite getting the better of the former 1st choice in only average saves per goal and distribution length, his presence in goal is also more commanding and assuring.
Karius will only get better and become one of the finest shot-stoppers cum sweeper in the EPL. Klopp definitely got it right by making him the number 1, and it wouldn’t take long before the German finally justifies his starting berth and put all doubts to bed once and for all.
Stats taken from Squawka