The arrival of Loris Karius, a goalkeeper little-known in England but highly-regarded in his native Germany, from Mainz last summer was greeted with considerable optimism.

Admittedly, most of the excitement was derived from impressive statistics and dazzling compilations of saves, but it seemed as if time was finally up for Simon Mignolet, dismissed as error-prone and unreliable, and as if the club would benefit from a safe pair of hands with an exceedingly bright future.

SEVILLE, SPAIN – Tuesday, November 21, 2017: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Sevilla FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

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After recovering from an injury, Karius leapfrogged Mignolet and slotted straight into the first team. Klopp had taken a significant risk in thrusting the youngster into the spotlight, and it backfired; what many hoped would be a largely seamless transition proved a baptism of fire.

Ten Premier League games later, the number one spot was lost, and it has not since been regained.

An unconvincing start ultimately became a disastrous one as inexplicable blunders against Bournemouth and West Ham sparked outcry from fans and fierce criticism from pundits.

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND – Wednesday, November 29, 2017: Liverpool’s captain goalkeeper Simon Mignolet during the FA Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at the Bet365 Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

To make matters worse for Karius, Mignolet proceeded to put together his strongest campaign to date, producing some frankly outrageous stops in the heat of top four battle.

Little, then, has been said of Karius in the twelve months or so since he was rightfully dropped.

But you sense that Klopp, a renowned man manager, is gradually rebuilding his confidence before once again tweaking the pecking order.

Considering that he is ostensibly Mignolet’s deputy, he has had ample opportunity to demonstrate his progress this season, starting every Champions League game and getting the nod for a blockbuster clash with Arsenal back in August.

We have grounds to believe, then, that Klopp still views his compatriot as his long-term number one. His faith in the much-maligned 24-year-old remains intact. Can the same be said, however, for Liverpool fans?

That is a very difficult question. To an extent, there will always be doubts surrounding a goalkeeper who makes an inauspicious start.

Inevitably, we question if he will be able to cut the sloppiness out of his game and, more importantly, whether his confidence, which no doubt took a battering, will ever recover.

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MOSCOW, RUSSIA – Tuesday, September 26, 2017: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius looks dejected as FC Spartak Moscow score the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Spartak Moscow and Liverpool at the Otkrytie Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For the moment, it’s difficult to be totally convinced. Broadly speaking, his performances this year have been OK, but from time to time underlying weaknesses do seem to flare up.

Against Spartak, for instance, he really ought to have kept out a free-kick which gave the hosts, who had been penned in for the first 20 minutes, the lead. Somehow, we managed to drop points that day, though admittedly our dreadful finishing was more to blame.

Any other specific criticism would probably constitute nit-picking, but Karius’ style of play means he is always likely to produce a heart-in-mouth moment.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – Saturday, September 9, 2017: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah sees his shot saved by Manchester City’s goalkeeper Ederson Moraes during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

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His reluctance to thump the ball clear in favouring of hurriedly playing a short pass to his defenders creates unnecessary risks and invariably sees him hounded by the opposition, who smell blood.

Whilst his supporters may actually applaud this trait, claiming it’s simply how a modern ‘keeper operates, the contrast between the ever-nervous Karius and the remarkably comfortable ball-player Ederson at Manchester City is stark.

And much like Mignolet, there are question marks over his ability to deal with crosses given his apparent determination to punch rather than catch.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – Saturday, September 9, 2017: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius warms-up before the FA Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Whether he simply doesn’t believe he can claim or the ball or whether he is confident that he can jab it out of the danger zone, opposing teams will prey on this weakness once again.

Indeed, the combination of a keeper liable to flap at crosses and a defence so often undone by set pieces is an inherently dangerous one.

A look at last season’s statistics only reinforces our concerns. In 10 league appearances, Karius made four errors leading to goals, while Mignolet limited himself to two across 28 games.

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND – Saturday, December 2, 2017: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is beaten from the penalty spot by Brighton & Hove Albion’s Glenn Murray during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Tellingly, he caught the ball just five times during his run in the team – once every two matches. Mignolet, meanwhile, plucked it out of the air on 31 occasions.

It is important to also acknowledge his strengths, and his ability as a shot-stopper is generally very impressive. There are countless examples of excellent saves, but Mignolet could respond with just as many.

Thus, both he and his team-mate are strongest in the same department; he does not offer the team something different.

HONG KONG, CHINA – Saturday, July 22, 2017: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius during the Premier League Asia Trophy final match between Liverpool and Leicester City at the Hong Kong International Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

To judge a player so early in his career is to align oneself with the remarkably impatient section of the Liverpool fanbase who relentlessly slaughter players on social media.

The majority of Karius’ critics, though, want nothing than to be proven wrong. For all we know, as his backers often suggest, he could yet mount a David de Gea-style transformation.

In all likelihood, though, that was an anomaly. Already, Karius has shown signs of buckling under the pressure of playing for a Premier League giant, so he must make psychological and technical strides he can even be dubbed ‘solid’.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – Wednesday, September 13, 2017: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius looks dejected as Sevilla score the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool and Sevilla at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

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Say what you want about Mignolet, he looks an entirely different player to the bumbling lummox of yesteryear. If indeed we progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League, surely the majority of fans would be far more comfortable with the Belgian between the sticks for a tie against a European heavyweight?

In answer to the question, then, right now, Karius can’t be trusted in my opinion. A trustworthy keeper inspires confidence, but there is always a lingering sense of anxiety when he is on the pitch.

SINSHEIM, GERMANY – Monday, August 14, 2017: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Play-Off 1st Leg match against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

But that answer may well change in the future. Both the manager and time are on his side, and his attitude has been encouraging: he has publicly admitted his mistakes and reaffirmed his determination to succeed.

It is not inconceivable that, years from now, I, along with many other Liverpool fans, will be eating my words. And since we know top-class goalkeepers are capable of winning points on their own, I can only implore Karius to make me look a fool.

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Avid Liverpool supporter and aspiring Sports Journalist.

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