SURPRISE surprise — sometimes the unexpected really does hit you between the eyes.
Such was the disbelief around the rumours of a change of Liverpool goalkeeper for the Arsenal fixture at least a dozen Twitter accounts were checked and belief still didn’t set in even after The Echo had it splashed all over their social.
But having conceded seven goals in the opening four fixtures of the season, Simon Mignolet was out. Jürgen Klopp deciding to dispose of the Belgian keeper in the most ruthless way, not even including Mignolet in the match-day squad.
And having not made a first team appearance in the league since December last year, Loris Karius was back in.
Whether the reasons for dropping the Belgian are, they remain a mystery — the manager claiming that he’s decided to merely “rest” the stopper.
But given that 29-year-old has endured worse runs of form and has still maintained the confidence of the manager, the timing seems more than a little odd.
Signed from Mainz last summer for £5million, Karius has endured a stuttering start to his Liverpool career, suffering a broken bone in his hand during a pre-season friendly last summer that curtailed his first-team debut only to then suffering the indignity of being dropped less than three months after his debut and a horrific run of form.
And having been thrown in at the deepest of ends, at least on paper, against Arsenal the 24-year-old walked off the pitch with a performance that prompted more questions than answers.
History will show that Liverpool, and Karius, kept a clean sheet but that doesn’t being to tell the story.
To say that the biggest risk to Liverpool not keeping a clean sheet was Karius himself is no exaggeration.
Not once, but twice over the course of the game Karius inexplicably took far too much time with the ball at his feet and was very lucky not to be punished, twice being the benefactor of fortunate ricochets.
But at the same time, the performance was not without mitigation, regardless of the castigation that is no doubt coming his way.
Karius didn’t pick himself and if the manager wanted to give Mignolet a day off he might have picked a quiet away fixture, but regardless, any notion that Karius would be given the benefit of the doubt was shortlived.
The noise in the crowd every time the ball came back to the young goalkeeper’s feet was piercing, the sucking of teeth, the demands to “get fucking rid” — none of it in anyway helpful.
That a few times the quick recycling of possession helped Liverpool get at Arsenal before they had time to get back in shape didn’t register and in the end, the goalkeeper obliged and went long, often conceding possession, but it got ironic cheers from the crowd so at least something was gained from it.
Even at four goals to the good and coasting the negative reaction towards Karius was toxic and bordering a bit on bullying from the crowd.
Despite the obvious flaws Karius’s performance was not without merit, twice when Liverpool were facing a set piece the goalkeeper came under pressure with clean, powerful punches.
Will Karius keep the jersey when the squad returns from the international break and Liverpool face Manchester City? Unless something else is happening with Mignolet then it’s unlikely if the managers comments about “rest” are to be believed.
Maybe the manager wanted to send a message to Mignolet not to rest on his laurels after his immensely improved second half of last season when his position was under threat, or maybe, and this is possibly totally over-analysing, the coaching team thought that the speed of Karius’s distribution and willingness to hold a high line was better suited to today’s game.
Whatever it is, it’s got everyone guessing and in a season when Liverpool will need everyone to be on their toes, maybe it’s not a bad thing after all.
And anyway, Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0.
Up the Bank Holiday Reds.