Splash the Cash
Transfer fees have gone through the roof over the last decade, it all started back in 2004 when Manchester United forked out £28m on a teenager who’d made just 65 League Appearances for Everton and it has continued to rise throughout the last 14 years. Robinho and Berbatov infamously completed their transfers to United and City on the same deadline day costing their respective teams £30m in 2008.
Recording breaking transfers have now extended beyond the players that score the goals or provide the creative spark in the midfield. Virgil Van Dijk most recently involved in a three-way tussle between Manchester City and Liverpool who were offering a large sum of money to Southampton, who were convincing him to stay and willing to make him their highest paid player. Ultimately, he joined Liverpool in a record £75m deal, in January of this year.
Prior to the summer of 2017, the most an English Premier League club had paid for a goalkeeper was £17m in 2011 for David De Gea and before that it was just £9m paid by Sunderland for Craig Gordan. What the last 12 months proves is that Premier League clubs especially are placing more emphasis on Defensive positions, as truly world class talents in that department become a premium. This is evident none more so in the purchases of Ederson, Alison Becker and Kepa by Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea respectively.
Pep Guardiola bought Ederson to the Etihad last summer for a £35m fee, more than double what United had paid for De Gea six years earlier, that fee looks justifiable now after City’s record-breaking campaign. Klopp went in search of his own Ederson this summer and it came as no coincidence that a deal was done less than three months after Karius’s performance in the Champions League Final against Real Madrid, Liverpool forced to pay a world record fee £62m to fellow European Semi-Finalists Roma. Chelsea quickly followed up with their own world record bid of £72m for Athletic Bilbao’s Kepa, a slight unknown for many outside of La Liga. This article will look at all three keepers’ stats from last season and work out if Liverpool have got a value for money purchase.
Playing Out from the Back
Playing out from the back has taken over the Premier League in recent years, but it’s been common place in Europe and South America for some time, it’ll come as no surprise then that the three Goalkeepers that have consecutively broken the transfer fee paid record are all of Latin origins. Kepa a Basque born Spaniard, whilst Ederson and Alisson are both Brazilian, two countries known for producing some of the world’s greatest footballing technicians, their goalkeepers are no different.
Let’s look at some of the passing and distribution stats from last season.
Kepa made far fewer passes than Ederson and Alisson in their respective leagues last season, his average passing distance of 49 yards also suggests that he’s not used in the same way either, the longer distance will also account for his drastically lower completion rate.
Alisson’s stats show he’s a lot more like Ederson, the average passing distance, number of passes and completion rate suggest he was used tactically in the same way too, this bodes well for Liverpool in a season that they look the most likely to challenge City for the Premier League title.
Got to Keep the Sheets Clean
Goalkeepers may now be evolving into the old-fashioned sweeper, expected to be comfortable with the ball at their feet and in high-pressure situations. However, their one and only job should always be keeping the ball out of the net and preserving their teams lead or maintaining at least a point.
The following shows how many clean sheets all three managed last season.
Alisson and Ederson again performed similarly in this area too, although Alisson made by far the greater number of saves, he only conceded one more goal and kept one fewer clean sheet.
The more you start to look at the stats, the more you start to wonder how Chelsea have justified paying £72m for Kepa. Okay so he doesn’t have the benefit of having multi-million-pound defenders in front of him and Bilbao often come up against teams far superior to them, but conceding 36 times in 26 appearances last season won’t do anything for his reputation and it would appear Chelsea panic bought somewhat after Courtois departed for Real Madrid.
Have Liverpool got value for money in their deal for Alisson Becker? Well if you’re to base it on last season, in which Roma reached the Champions League semi-finals and finished 3rd 18 points behind Scudetto holders Juventus, then possibly not.
Taking a deep dive into his stats however has shown that he’s a more than capable shot stopper and has the technical ability to match Ederson and then some, I still think the £68m is somewhat a ridiculous price to pay for a Goalkeeper, but then I think it’s a huge fee to pay for anyone.
If Alisson leads Liverpool to the title or cup victory this season then it’ll prove a worthy sum, otherwise, that price tag may just come back and haunt Klopp and Alisson likewise.