Reds boss Jurgen Klopp insists neither of his main keepers, Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, are his permanent No.1 keeper and that whoever gets to play will do so based on performances and what’s best for the team.
New Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius is set to make his competitive first team debut tonight as the Reds take on Derby County in the EFL Cup but manager Jurgen Klopp has denied he is his No.1 keeper.
Karius, 23, was signed in the summer as Jurgen Klopp used his knowledge of German football to seek out quality purchases to improve his squad. With existing keeper Simon Mignolet under fire for much of his Anfield career, and blamed for many a Reds goal conceded, the feeling was that Karius would be taking over as first choice. Not so, claims Klopp, but he does expect to start with the new man for tonight’s League Cup tie.
“Loris will play, if nothing happens,” Klopp said.
With this being a competition that, in recent years, many top flight managers have used to give their second choice keepers a run-out, does this tell us anything about Karius’s place in the pecking order, does it confirm Simon Mignolet remains his No.1 keeper?
The Reds boss was emphatic – no. “Where is my possibility to answer?” he asked.
“If I say ‘Yes’ what does that mean for Loris? If I say ‘No’ what does that mean for Simon? The question makes sense but the answer would not.
“There is no No.1 at this moment,” Klopp stressed.
What the manager shares in a press conference will of course differ from what he shares in private with his staff and in turn his players, although some of the footage from Friday’s win over Chelsea suggested he was struggling to keep his thoughts on Mignolet’s distribution of the ball private. Mignolet had been blamed by some for the short goalkick that led to a mistake from Lucas and a Leicester goal at Anfield ten days ago.
Whatever he really feels about the keeper situation, something he will have made as clear internally as he did in front of the press is that performances will go a long way to helping him make up his mind, regardless of how much a player cost or which manager brought him in.
“It is not because we paid money for Loris and did not pay money last year for Simon that I make the decision.
“It is about what I see in training, and what I see is two very good goalkeepers and another for the future we gave to Huddersfield [Danny Ward, who went out on a season-long loan].
“The business is done for this position hopefully and now they have to perform.”
“It is just about performing and showing how good you are.
“For all players it is the same. I won’t say someone is our centre-half for the next 15 months.
“It is about performing and improving. Show how much you can help the team.”
“Germany is a goalkeeper country. We have no issue with goalkeepers. The best keeper in the world plays at Bayern Munich and is German. We have always had good ones, maybe not always the best in the world, but good ones.
“The German mentality is we like this job. The kids like to wear gloves. It’s good to be in goal for a Bundesliga team. I saw his way. He had a bad start at Mainz, when no one wanted him, to become an outstanding goalkeeper. We wanted him, I spoke to him and that is what we got.”
Many wondered if the arrival of Karius spelled the end for Mignolet’s Anfield career and it began to look that way over the summer with the Belgian keeper’s later arrival to pre-season – after being on duty for his national team at the Euros – meaning Karius was getting plenty of game time and, one embarassing moment aside, performing well.
Klopp, however, says he wanted two keepers who would be good enough to battle for a place in the team: “What we want is two really strong goalkeepers and that is what I think we have got.
“Loris had an advantage in pre-season but could not use it because of injury. In this moment Simon came back from the national team and did a brilliant job. I really don’t want to make a big battle of these two goalkeepers, why should I?
“Goalkeepers need to feel secure but you can’t play your whole life as a keeper without conceding goals.”
Klopp also signed 39-year-old former Arsenal keeper Alex Manninger, whose role is quite clearly as the third choice keeper and who won’t be expecting to get onto the field very often if at all. It’s the expectations of his main two keepers he has to manage, and Klopp knows that although this isn’t easy he will do what he can to lessen the pressure on them both.
“You will always feel a bit guilty, more or less,” he said, “but you want a manager who will say you can still stay and feel confident.
“I can’t say ‘today, him and then today him’. The pressure on the players is big enough. I don’t have to make any more, they have to do their best and then when I have a feeling for something I will change, or not.”
The EFL Cup 3rd Round clash between Derby County and Liverpool kicks off at 7:45pm tonight, Roberto Firmino is expected to play at least some part after missing out against Chelsea with injury. Emre Can may get a run out too, with Klopp also having one eye on this weekend’s Premier League visit of Hull City.