State Of The Reds: Pepe Reina’s Liverpool Reincarnation

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Pepe Reina of Liverpool (Wikimedia Commons)

Pepe Reina of Liverpool (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a fact of life that while everyone is paid to do a job, there are always some that can get away with not pulling their weight. There is however no excuses or hiding places when it comes to goalkeepers. Making an error or neglecting to do what’s required of them and not only does the whole world get to view it but then inevitably always pass judgement.

Prior to his arrival, Liverpool had seen it’s share of number ones. Far too many in fact to suggest any kind of consistency, the tone for that being set in the nineties with computer game aficionado David James. While he was a commendable – sometimes spectacular shot stopper – the one flaw he had was so vital to the jigsaw puzzle that he was never going to fit. Westerveld followed him was far less eye catching but a little more conventional, save for one occasion in Middlesbrough on Boxing Day.

The upward trend continued with the double signing of Jerzy Dudek and Chris Kirkland. It was a move which was intended on sealing off the goalkeeping position for some time and the initial signs were fantastic. Unfortunately Diego Forlan – in what appears to be his only helpful contribution to the Man United cause – planted a seed of doubt, one that would take hold and eventually force Rafa Benitez to look elsewhere. Jerzy’s wobbly legs may have been a highlight and something that will always be cherished but Liverpool needed something special. Enter Jose Manuel Reina.

Any doubts as to whether Benitez had upgraded were dispelled virtually immediately. Within months Reina broke the record for consecutive clean sheets as they went eleven games without conceding a goal. He received the golden gloves for three seasons running and was among best keepers in the Premier League if not in the whole of Europe. Things went from strength to strength, but the power struggle between the management and boardroom was only ever going to end one way. During the final year of Benitez’s reign, Reina was a virtual one man force stopping the team from sliding down even further. As with seemingly everything that surrounded the club, things haven’t been as good for Pepe in recent years.

What was once now unthinkable has become an all too often occurrence. Opposition strikers would have to be on their very best to get through his defenses and sometimes that wasn’t enough, recently it has all been too easy. Of course one of the reasons for that quite simply is that those in front of him aren’t quite as sharp as they once were, nor do they have Javier Mascherano snarling around the midfield anymore. The talk all season has been of his steady decline and now how the club is at a point whereby the possibility of him moving may become a reality. But then Liverpool went to Wigan and met up with and reacquainted themselves with someone. The old Pepe Reina.

Buried beneath all the headlines created by Suarez and Coutinho, there was a story of redemption afoot. It wasn’t that he made one good save, there were a catalog of them. This past Sunday against Aston Villa there was another moment to remember, when Gabby Agbonlahor fired in from close range. Point blank it was, but again these are the moments that help rebuild the confidence of a once impregnable force. Additional help will come in the form of reinforcements, as Rodgers will look to overhaul more or less the entire defense this summer. The manager has recently reiterated his desire for Pepe to stay at the club long term and as part of the senior members of the squad help everyone else along. If Rodgers gets it right then maybe then Reina – and Liverpool – will get the chance to finish what was started in 2006. The shine from his golden gloves may have diminished significantly but they are not yet ready to be thrown away.

1 Comment on "State Of The Reds: Pepe Reina’s Liverpool Reincarnation"

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  1. Daft Lad says:

    I hope so. I hope his form continues to climb but at the moment it’s small shoots of recovery. Still a long way to go.

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