During his tenure as Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has, at times, been accused of stubbornness. Many felt it’s why he persevered with goalkeepers Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius for too long, for example.
Yet those accusations were often made by those who didn’t understand the man and Klopp’s perceived stubbornness was often misplaced loyalty. These, like any other player under his watch, were his guys. He trusted them, wanted the best for them, wanted them to succeed.
But even the most loyal of us can eventually lose patience. And this summer, after the errors made by Karius in the Champions League final, the Reds boss decided a change was required.
So in came Alisson, for a then world record fee for a goalkeeper of £56milllion. Many scoffed and questioned Liverpool’s decision to spend so big on a goalkeeper with only one, admittedly exceptional, season of regular European football under his belt.
Klopp knew what he was getting, though. “He’s a massive signing for us, we knew that,” the German said in August.
“A few people thought around set pieces, because he’s Brazilian and comes from Italy, he’s not used to it. But he leads the line and I like that and that’s why we got him in.”
Nine games into his Liverpool career and Alisson has already proven well worth the transfer fee the Reds paid Roma for his services. If anything, that £56million figure looks cheap given Chelsea paid £71million for Kepa, an unproven goalkeeper at the very top level, later in the summer.
The Brazil No.1 hasn’t been flawless, there was that high-profile mistake against Leicester City after which the knives quickly came out from rival fans, but there’s little doubt he makes the Reds are far greater side.
There are few better goalkeepers with the ball at their feet, yet many knew that prior to Alisson arriving at Anfield. What has stood out is his shot-stopping ability, the best example of which came against Napoli in the Champions League.
The game itself was one to forget for Liverpool, who produced their worst display for several months and were deservedly beaten. However, there was a moment in the second half that highlighted why the 26-year-old is one of the world’s best.
Mário Rui broke down the Reds right flank and delivered a whipped cross into the penalty area. Dries Mertens found space in the penalty area and volleyed the ball towards goal, admittedly off his shin.
To the naked eye, the ball ricocheted off the crossbar and Liverpool cleared. A lucky escape. Not exactly. It was only when the slow-mo replay was shown that Alisson’s role was highlighted.
Somehow, despite the pace on the ball and the proximity of Mertens, the Liverpool No.1 had managed to get the slightest of touches on the shot to direct it onto the woodwork. Without that nudge of the ball, shifting it millimetres higher, the Belgian’s effort would have likely bounced off the bar and into the net.
Daniel Sturridge claimed the headlines that day and given the breathtaking equaliser he scored that wasn’t a great surprise. Put simply, without Alisson’s earlier intervention, the Reds would’ve been out of the game.
Of course, Liverpool missed chances of their own, but we’re focusing on the opportunity for Eden Hazard in the second half. At that point, Chelsea are leading. A second goal would, in all probability, lead to a victory for the home side.
So when the Blues took a quick free kick and put Hazard through on goal, the match was there for the taking.
As the still below shows, the Belgian collects the N’Golo Kanté’s pass with time and plenty of space ahead of him. But note Alisson’s position. He’s already almost 12 yards from his goal-line.
It’s an aggressive and bold position to take up but immediately Hazard’s time is reduced. The Chelsea No.10 has to make his decision when to shoot earlier than if Liverpool’s goalkeeper was rushing off his line.
The second significant move Alisson makes is to again be brave and change his position as Hazard goes to shoot.
As the above still shows, Alisson hasn’t greatly altered his position as Hazard advanced on goal. He stood firm, confident.
But as the Belgian shapes to shoot the Liverpool stopper lunges forward to close down the space between him and the ball.
As a result Hazard’s shot strikes the goalkeeper and deflected onto the roof of the net. From there Liverpool are able to go on and claim a point.
Now in truth, these are actions many would expect an elite goalkeeper to make. But that doesn’t detract from them. Every motion Alisson made as Hazard bore down on goal was the right one. Could the same be said about Karius or Mignolet in the same situation? History would suggest no.
“If you look at my professional history as a goalkeeper, I am not somebody who makes many mistakes,” Alisson said in an interview with the Telegraph in the build-up to the Chelsea game.
“My game is characterised by consistency. That is what has brought me to Liverpool. I like to make simple saves; I don’t make saves for the camera.”
And for that Alisson must be lauded. It was Leonardo da Vinci who once said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Perhaps the Liverpool goalkeeper is a fan.