Chris Allen takes a look at Pepe Reina’s Liverpool career and current form.
José Manuel “Pepe” Reina Páez. For many years even the name filled Liverpool fans with a sense of security and pride that such a great keeper would be between the sticks for our team.
The last few years this is a reputation which has waned a little and at times has been much the opposite.
In this article I want to look at the player he was, he is and the player he may still be, more importantly is he still the main man to keep in goal for Liverpool.
Pepe Reina comes from a very solid goalkeeping background. His dad Miguel Reina played for both Atletico Madrid and the Mighty Barcelona.
When Pepe was purchased from Villareal for £6m back in 2005 he was heralded by Rafa Benitez as the ‘best goalkeeper in Spain’. A mighty performance was required with a backing like that and even more so as he would be relegating Champions League hero Jerzy Dudek to the bench.
I feel it is safe to say he did exactly what was asked of him, winning the Golden Gloves award 3 years running – which is still a record (keeping 20 clean sheets out of 38 in 2005/06, 19 clean sheets out of 35 in 2006/07 and 18 out of 38 in 2007/08). Indeed even in the 2008/09 season he achieved 20 clean sheets out of 38.
Overall during those 4 seasons his clean sheet to game average in the league reads as 53%, 54%, 47%, 53% which is incredibly impressive.
If you compare these percentages to the last 3 years including the current season they read as (40% in 2010/11, 35% in 2011/12 and currently 35% 2012/13) you can clearly see that there has been a dip in the clean sheet return.
With the introduction of Brendan Rodgers many people felt that this would work well for Reina as it would mean he would be asked to play a more keeper/sweeper role for Liverpool. A role he thrived on under the reign of Benitez. One statistic which would allude to that is an impressive 74% pass completion ratio – especially when you consider his passes are on average 36m.
However Reina has been guilty of 4 errors which have led to goals. This is the same level as the prior year (2011/12). In the 3 years prior to that he made only 1 (2008/09/10)
He has also conceded 28 goals in 20 games for Liverpool this year and has a save ratio of only 64% this season (Julio Cesar who’s team are bottom of the league has a 76% save ratio to put this in some perspective, also Reina’s average over the 8 years at the club is 78% this shows you that there has been a serious dip in form). It is no real surprise that currently Reina is rated as lowly as 12th in the best keepers in the league on current form.
However, this cannot solely be put against Reina, during this period we have had the aging of Carragher, the uncertain partnerships in defence (with Skrtel again showing signs of fragility forcing him to be dropped for the last 3 league games).
As well as the conceding of goals being about more than just a goalkeeper’s responsibility, a second issue I would like to raise is that in Reina’s time at Liverpool, who has given him serious competition for his status as Liverpool’s number one
Brad Jones has been number 2 at Liverpool for the past three seasons, and whilst he has been enjoying a long run in the team this year compared to his previous 2 seasons he has always been a number 2 keeper. At Middlesbrough he found himself playing back up to another reliable keeper in Mark Schwarzer. If you compare stats for this season between Jones and Reina it makes solid reading for Brad.
Although Jones has only played 5 games this season in the League (compared to Reina’s 20), he has only conceded 4 goals in those games and has a shot to save ratio of 71% – far better than Reina’s 64%.
Despite mine, and other’s, concerns about Jones when Reina has been injured this season, he has proved to be a reliable keeper, aside from his distribution. He makes himself big and does not appear to go to ground too quickly, similar to Reina. However, I do not feel that he will be a number 1 until he improves his distribution. He’s 31 this year and I feel that this is as good as he will get. Do not get me wrong he is a sound number 2 but not someone to push Reina for the number 1 spot.
I really do not feel that we need to replace Reina, yes he is not producing as well as he can do but I think that if he were really challenged for the starting spot then we would either see a return to the form that has made him such a legend at Anfield (after all this is the man who has his own flag in the Kop) or we would at least have a good enough replacement to put in.
One player who I feel would arrive with a huge reputation to really keep Reina on his heels and someone who would be a great signing for Liverpool is Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. He is currently plying his trade at Borussia Mönchengladbach. He’s only 20 years old but already touted as a keeper for the future and has represented Germany twice – out-performing Manuel Neuer on both occasions.
He’s known to be very brave one on one and is happy to collect a cross. He is also very loud at organising his defences which with the impending loss of Carragher at the end of this season could come in very useful for our youthful team. His age would also fit in nicely with the owner’s philosophy although you would expect that there would be a considerable fee for such a quality young keeper. Borussia are currently sitting 7th in the league however hopefully the hunger and ‘project’ at Liverpool would be appealing to him.
Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, I don’t agree with the those questioning Reina’s quality as a keeper. He does not simply fall apart after a couple of years, but we need to give him the spark and to prepare for life after Pepe.