Red Letter: Unconvincing Karius could cost Liverpool title shot

Mark Scott
Jurgen Klopp: Took Loris Karius out of the firing line

Dave Tindall is praying that Liverpool’s weakness at No.1 will not come back to haunt them, despite revealing his optimism at their season so far in this week’s Red Letter.

Well, that’s over a quarter of the Premier League season played and it couldn’t have gone much better.

Seven wins, two draws, one defeat and we’re joint top of the table.

In terms of pure points it’s not our best start as we banked 26 points from our first 10 games under Rafa in 2008/09 and 24 under Gerard Houllier in 2002/03.

But, let’s not forget, unlike everyone else in the top-flight, we’ve played six of those 10 away from home. And, not only that, recorded what could prove decisive wins at potential title rivals Arsenal and Chelsea and taken a point at Spurs.

We’re level on points at the top with Manchester City and Arsenal but, if degree of difficulty is factored in, we’re surely better off at this stage than anyone.

Hitting the front early

Jurgen Klopp: Insists defenders retain his confidence

Obviously, as we’ve shown ourselves, fast starts don’t guarantee success and in those two campaigns mentioned above we finished runner-up in 2008/09 and only fifth in 2002/03.

But slow starts are far, far worse. Title races aren’t like Olympic 1,500m races. You can’t just sit waiting in the pack and produce a kick finish at the end. By then the leaders have disappeared over the horizon and won’t be coming back.

The argument that you don’t want to hit the front too soon will be lost on Jurgen Klopp.

Why? In the two seasons he won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund they took top spot and never relinquished it. First, after 10 games in 2011 and then after 20 (February) the following year.

It’s comforting to know that Klopp is a good front runner. Let’s hope we put ourselves in position to draw on that experience.

In truth, Liverpool should probably be top of the table now. We’re not due to goal difference (+11 to Man City’s +15 and Arsenal’s +13).

That’s a four-goal gap but, to be honest, we could have wiped that out in one blow at Crystal Palace.

Karius a concern

Loris Karius: Made Liverpool debut at Derby

True, we scored four again but the Reds missed several sitters, hit the woodwork twice and gifted them their first goal.

First, the good news. Yet again we were a mesmerising whirl of creativity going forward, interchanging positions at will and leaving their defenders wondering whether to stick or twist.

It’s pretty clear now that Klopp’s chosen front three are Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, leaving Daniel Sturridge as the next cab off the rank.

Coutinho was brilliant again at Palace and is playing at a level befitting of a title winner. Others aren’t too far behind.

But, by contrast, it’s a very different story at the other end of the pitch.

I look at Loris Karius and his nice hair and boyish looks and can’t help but think he won some German reality TV show called ‘Das Keeper’.

The prize, a contract with a pro football team.

And yet, to win the title, we somehow need him to behave like a seasoned pro who can save us in tight games and keep a series of clean sheets when things inevitably get tough down the stretch.

Instead, I see a young boy making his way. To be honest, I wince whenever the ball goes back to him and fill up with dread any time we concede a corner.

Surely, this shouldn’t be the case if we’re proper title contenders.

For now, it’s not costing us. Even if we concede two, we’ll bang in four but how long can we keep that going?

Loris Karius: Trains with John Achterberg

Hopefully long enough for Karius to find his feet but he’ll have to be a quick learner and you sense his current confidence status is ‘fragile’.

Goalkeeping coach John Achterberg has been using rugby tackle bags in training to try and reproduce the physical test that Karius will face when trying to come for high balls and, with Watford the visitors to Anfield this weekend, it must be tempting to paint the face of Troy Deeney on them.


Time to stir Hornets’ nest

Walter Mazzarri: Dishes out the instructions

Watford are decent. They’re above Manchester United in the table and they beat us comfortably at their place last season.

Everyone remembers that game as an example of how Liverpool could be roughed up but little mention is made of the return at Anfield when we beat them 2-0 through goals from Joe Allen and Firmino.

Slowly, people are realising that Liverpool have an awful lot of possession and win games mostly through relentless dominance off the ball rather than picking pockets on the break.

If it goes to plan, Watford will be chasing us for most of the game and the ball won’t be near Karius. So, despite the Hornets being far from pushovers, this is a golden chance to win another three points.

The return of James Milner at left-back is welcome although he’ll basically be playing left-midfield for most of this one.

With Milner on one side and Nathaniel Clyne (get your grubby hands off him Barcelona!) on the other, Liverpool will have width and a framework from which Coutinho, Firmino, Mane and Lallana can run at the visitors from all sorts of angles.

Respect to Watford and all that but I’m now seeing games like this as an opportunity to strut our stuff and show why we’re the most exciting team in the Premier League.

Whether exciting equals best remains to be seen and the No.1 jersey is a big concern. But with Klopp at the steering wheel, as every week goes by it seems that this is a race we can play a huge part in.


Dave Tindall