Reaching the Champions League final was a real statement of intent from Liverpool, who are ready to take their seat at continental football’s top table once more. The final revealed a couple of things: how close we are to mixing it with the very best, and how it’s essential we improve upon our weakest links to take that next step.
It feels harsh calling Loris Karius a ‘weak link’, but at the moment he is the embodiment of a problem that has dogged the Reds for a long old time. Without a commanding goalkeeper, it is very hard for any football team to defend in a meaningful, trophy-winning way.
And so the signing of Alisson Becker from AS Roma is a move that will fill the hearts of even the most pessimistic of Reds with hope and expectation. The Brazilian, who keeps Manchester City’s Ederson out of the national side, joins for an astronomical £67m – making him the most expensive keeper on the planet – but the 25-year-old could be the difference between a season of success and glory in 2018/19 and another of close but no cigar frustration.
Dreaming of a Bright Future
The player himself is talking of a bright future. “It’s a thing that’s so important to me – to be happy and wanted, to feel valued. That is what Liverpool made me feel,” he said.
“They are a huge club, they have had many great players, but when I came here, where I spoke to the people here, they made me feel wanted. All the staff, all the people, not to mention the players. It is an amazing group, some of them I have worked with before, like Salah at Roma.
“I feel as though we can form a really tight group, working together to support each other. We are a team already, I can feel that. We can achieve good things together.”
So what will the Brazilian bring to the party?
Alisson Becker: What They Say
Sometimes it can be hard to measure the ability of a goalkeeper. You can have good keepers playing in bad times, and a high goals conceded tally can skew opinion about their abilities.
Conversely, how often have we seen mediocre number ones look great simply because the defenders in front of them are so efficient at their jobs?
The good thing about Alisson is that he shone in a failry decent Roma side thanks, mainly, to his agility and shot-stopping capabilities. Indeed, only Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak and David de Gea had better save ratios than him in European football’s flagship division last term.
That suggests that a) Roma’s defending isn’t the best, and b) Alisson pulled off a number of high class saves to help them perform so well in Serie A and the Champions League.
Augusto de Bartolo, who works for Sky Sports in Italy, watched Alisson closely last season, and has been effusive in his praise for the 25-year-old.
“When Roma sold Szczesny to Juventus, the club already knew Alisson was a better goalkeeper,” he said. “Last season, he was one of the best ‘keepers in Serie A, if not the best now that Gianluigi Buffon is at the end of his career.
“If Roma had the second-best defence in the league last season, then that was due to Alisson’s abilities. Statistically speaking, he had the best save percentage (79.26%) and was the keeper that not only stopped the most number of shots faced, but also the one that saved the most dangerous shots in the top flight.”
Having those shot-stopping skills is one thing, but there has to be more about a goalkeeper than the ability to repel shots. They must be a commanding presence, they must inspire confidence in the defenders in front of them and they must have a certain aura about them; think Gigi Buffon, Peter Schmeichel and Pepe Reina.
On that front, Jurgen Klopp has been very pleased with what he’s seen from his signing in these early days. “The good thing is from the first day he has been very stable and calm, but then again we already knew a few things about his personality when we signed him,” the manager said.
“And apart from catching balls, that helps massively. You need to have the right personality for that very difficult job. And obviously he has that.”
The signs are very promising for Alisson and Liverpool in 2018/19; let’s hope the Brazilian can help us towards some silverware in the new campaign.