It could be said that Liverpool’s goalkeeper situation is like buses… Endlessly waiting for a good one, before three arriving all at once!
Last night, young Welshman Danny Ward saved two penalties to send Huddersfield Town into the Championship Play-Off Finals.
Throughout the campaign, he’s been largely faultless for David Wagner’s promotion candidates, and you can be sure the German is delighted his best friend Jurgen Klopp leant him the 23-year-old for the season.
After his deciding spot-kick save against Sheffield Wednesday, Ward ran the length of the pitch before celebrating in front of his fans, with the commentator declaring him ‘the Championship’s best keeper’...
For a club like Liverpool, who’ve had so many issues between the sticks, he appears a serious asset.
But what can we actually do with him?
Goalkeeper is different to every other position on the pitch in that a team can get away with having just one really good one, so however talented a youngster may be, his path to first-team action is regularly blocked.
Simon Mignolet, since winning his spot back from Loris Karius this season, has quietly been a revelation. There’s been maybe one mistake of note away to Hull, but elsewhere, he’s been faultless. His punching, kicking and communication has improved tenfold and he’s won us crucial matches (most notably away to Stoke) with jaw-dropping saves.
His backup Loris Karius (who, interestingly, was born on the exact same day as Ward) was good in January during our cup fixtures, although he’s had to content himself with a spot on the bench ever since.
So with the Belgian and the German, Ward could well fail to make a match-day squad for Liverpool next season; clearly not beneficial for his progression.
Perhaps Liverpool can learn a few things from Chelsea, in this instance. They had Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois on the books at the same time for three years, with the younger man loaned to Atletico Madrid on every occasion, where he slowly formed a reputation as one of Europe’s best. It was at this point when the Blues allowed him to usurp Cech, who had passed his peak.
Mignolet currently ‘isn’t broke’, so there’s no point ‘fixing’ him with Ward, but it would be foolish to sell the upcoming stopper nonetheless.
Hopefully, he can stay on-loan at Huddersfield in the Premier League next year and we can see at close-quarters whether he’s elite pedigree.