No goalkeeper is immune to the vast amount of criticism that will inevitably come their way. Whether being rounded on for a costly howler, unavoidable inexperience or just a perceived general lack of command, a keeper's life is an incessant trial by fire.
A 20-year-old David de Gea making consistent Premier League appearances for Manchester United during his first season in England was a “dodgy keeper” that needed “to grow into his kit”.
Petr Cech, the eight-time Czech Footballer of the Year, was lambasted for his performances after joining Arsenal from Chelsea — his sale a reported masterstroke from Jose Mourinho.
One of the most harrowing statement’s from Ronald Reng’s brilliant A Life Too Short - The Tragedy of Robert Enke comes from Robert’s father, Dirk: “Robert had this way of thinking, that if I’m not the best, I must be the worst. And that’s a fundamental aberration.”
The sentiment aligns with the cliched view of a goalkeeper staying even-keeled, of getting over costly errors in a matter of moments while displaying superhuman focus and competitiveness until kingdom come.
It’s ludicrous - just look at the way field players drift in and out of matches, particularly during periods of poor form - but keepers remain under the microscope at all times.
23-year-old German goalkeeper Loris Karius clearly realizes this falicy.
“I think sometimes people think we are like robots…They think we have no emotions or feelings, that we can never have a bad day,” said Karius in an interview with the Daily Mail’s football editor Ian Ladyman. “That’s not how it works, we are still humans. We make mistakes. We have better days, worse days.”
It’s only his first year in the Premier League, a competition notoriously difficult for newcomers and veterans alike, and he’s only made nine EPL starts for Liverpool, but he’s been heavily criticized following a poor performance against Bournemouth.
“[Karius] isn’t good enough,” said Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville. “Goalkeepers can transmit anxiety all around the ground, and all through a team. The likes of Karius, that’s what they do - they’re good at it, they’re good at transmitting anxiety.”
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This is the kind of stinging, personal criticism that Karius is just supposed to live with, always. But his response showed both a personal strength and an authenticity that’s befitting Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
“What critics say right after the game, I don’t know what I think. If you asked them again would they say it now?” said Karius. “And I don’t care what Gary Neville said. He was a manager for a short bit and now he is back to being an expert again.”
Neville was manager of Valencia for an ill-fated 28 matches last season — compiling a torrid win percentage of 35.71 with the Spanish giants. Karius's rate of f****** up doesn't come anywhere close to that.
“I’m not unhappy,” says Karius. “I choose to be a goalkeeper. This is what I choose to do and this is how it is.”
With Liverpool battling for the title this season, patience and understanding isn’t going to be a guarantee from supporters.
But Klopp has outlined his vision for his young goalkeeper and given him his full support: “When we analyzed the game I found eight players who could have defended the goal before Loris was involved. He made a mistake too. Even the best goalkeepers in the world still make mistakes. We know we have to deal with pressure. There is no perfect recipe for development but to close your ears helps a lot.”