I’ve always been a big fan of Pepe Reina. He’s been a fantastic goalkeeper for Liverpool. In the seasons 05/06, 06/07 & 07/08 Pepe won the Golden Glove Award presented to keepers who keep the most clean sheets in a season. In fact, Reina’s three awards are more times than any other goalkeeper. In each of those seasons Pepe kept 20, 19 & 18 clean sheets respectively. Reina has been the best last-line of defense any team could ask for. Who can forget his extra-time and penalty shoot out heroics in the 2006 FA Cup win over West Ham and the fantastic penalty saves he made against Chelsea in 2007 Champions League semi-final win at Anfield? Signing for the Reds in 2005 from Villareal, Reina has had six excellent and consistent years between the sticks. But things have changed and, just like the Liverpool team itself, Reina is now looking suspect and it’s not just me who thinks that, Reina himself believes he has had a poor season: “I don’t think my season has been good at all. It has been below my standards and I know I haven’t been great. There have been a number of mistakes by me. I had six really good years before this and people got used to that level from me, but sometimes you have a dip in form and must accept it.” A “number of mistakes” seems a bit of an understatement as the reality is Reina hasn’t made a decent save for several weeks with his judgment seemingly deserting him. In the latter part of the season he’s been beaten too easily and on a consistent basis, especially at the near post. Van Persie’s extra-time winner for Arsenal at Anfield and the first goal against us in the FA Cup final last Saturday are two classic examples of just how much Pepe’s form has deserted him. Ramires shot had Reina once again going down too early and leaving his near post exposed. The Reina of a few seasons ago would never have allowed that shot to get past him.
I found statistics up until the end of March which highlight Reina’s dip in form. It showed that in his last six games he was conceding a goal every 54 minutes versus a season-average of 87.1. In comparison, Joe Hart had conceded a goal every 180 minutes (2 games) versus his season average of 122.73. Quite the contrast. Now I understand statistics alone can be deceiving as a solid defensive unit will help keep the number of scoring opportunities for the opposition down to a minimum but it is still a troubling stat. The question is do Liverpool keep the faith with Reina and trust he will work hard, as he always does, and get himself back to his consistent best or should Liverpool be looking to sign a new, highly talented, goalkeeper? To me the answer is straightforward. Yes and yes. I believe Reina is such a dedicated professional that sets himself extremely high standards that he should be given the opportunity to prove he can regain the form he once showed. In turn, however, we need to bring a new quality goalkeeper to Anfield to challenge Pepe. If Pepe recovers his form then great and we have a first-rate back-up keeper but if Reina’s form continues to desert him then Liverpool have someone who can step in and do a first-rate job.