???️ Rotating The ‘Keeper’s

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Does Goalkeeper rotation work? Ever since Loris Karius’ arrival at Anfield at the beginning of last season there has been question marks over the faith that Jurgen Klopp has over Simon Mignolet and how he fits into Klopp’s long term plans. We play a high line and Simon Mignolet, while a brilliant shot stopper, is not that comfortable with the ball at his feet. Despite this, Klopp still maintains that he still sees Mignolet as his No1 goalkeeper but also believes that we have 3 good goalkeepers at our disposal. Klopp intends to make effective use of that, by rotating the goalkeeping position and have a different goalkeeper for different competitions. Mignolet will play the premier league fixtures, Karius will play the Champions League fixtures and presumably Danny Ward looks like he will play in the League Cup at the very least. Does this goalkeeper rotation work? Does the inconsistencies that it creates affect performances? It is not something you see often in England and because of that it defiantly raises some questions. Yet, it is more common on the continent, with teams like Barcelona, Atletico Madrid having employed a similar rotation in the past. In this article, I will consider both of those examples from Spain, to see if rotating the goalkeepers can be an intelligent decision, or a pointless exercise.   Barcelona Barcelona are probably one of the first teams that came to mind when thinking about this subject. During the 2014/15 season they bought the highly rated German stopper Mark Andre Ter-Stegen from Borussia Monchengladbach, as a replacement for Victor Valdes but then bought another goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo a couple of weeks later to be the backup. Ter-Stegen got injured, Bravo did his chance well and Barca were left with a goalkeeper who was in form and a goalkeeper who was supposed to be the number one. The solution? Rotation. Claudio Bravo continued to play the domestic fixtures while Ter-Stegan played the champions league games when he returned to full fitness. During that season Ter-Stegan matured into his role at Barcelona, learning the language and the new style of play very well, while Bravo had possibly his best season in net. That season Barcelona won the treble, so evidently either was a positive influence or a non-issue for them. At that time both goalkeepers were highly rated. While Bravo has looked awful for City, he was great for Barcelona and Ter-Stegan has always been rated highly. Fast forward a couple of years and Bravo had moved on and now Ter-Stegan is now firmly in control of that number one jersey. Ter-Stegen was able to seamlessly transition to being the number one over the course of a year.   Atletico Madrid A comparable situation happened at Atletico Madrid during the 14/15 season. After Chelsea recalled Courtois from his loan deal, Atletico signed Moya and Oblak from Getafe and Benfica respectively. With Oblak being considerably younger than his Spanish counterpart it seemed clear that he was the long-term solution but Moya was a preferred option for much of that first season. Oblak still managed to get 14 appearances as the second-choice goalkeeper that season though, showing that he was more than just a traditional number 2. When Oblak did play however there was added pressure as it was a talking point to the game, much like what happens when Karius gets a start for Liverpool. Everything that he did was scrutinised and it perhaps was not good for his confidence. However, the gift of hindsight time has shown that Oblak is a quality keeper. That gift is something that we do not have yet for Karius, so of course fans are nervous, we simply have not seen enough of him for us to feel confident in his ability.   That is the problem isn’t it. We haven’t seen Karius tested yet. So of course, we are nervous whenever he tries to use his feet and that will transfer on the pitch. You could see that in the game against Sevilla. He tried a few times to get the ball down and kick it up the field, when he was given the time to pick a pass, his distribution was great but when he was hounded by the crowd for taking too long, he panicked and produced a sub-par ball. I do believe though that Klopp bought Karius to be his number one Goalkeeper in his long-term plans. He is better with his feet, distributes the ball well and is a good sweeper keeper. If that is indeed the case then imagine if Klopp just threw the German straight into the thick of it. Karius’ performances may hit by the immediate pressure and difficulty of adapting to the premier league which in the fickle world of football could be curtains for his Anfield career. The two examples from Spain are good examples of easing in the next goalkeeper over a season, rather than throwing them straight into the deep end. While at the time it may not have made any sense, perhaps cost the team a few results here and there. Hindsight however is a wonderful thing and time has shown that these have been shrewd decisions as both now have goalkeepers that will now likely be around for years to come. If Klopp does fully believe in Karius’ ability to be our number 1 for his time at Liverpool, then this could be a smart way of integrating him into the side. Klopp is making short term sacrifices for long term gain because right now our defence is crying out for some consistency at the very least. Hindsight though is a wonderful thing and I really do hope Klopp has the last laugh in the end.   Article by Tom Culshaw
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