The attention of the footballing world was drawn to Merseyside on Thursday as Liverpool completed the signing of Alisson Becker for a world record fee from Roma. The club has gone from strength to strength this summer, adding quality players to fill in various gaps in the squad.
The final glaring area that needed addressing was in goal, where Liverpool’s long-lasting frailty between the sticks reached its peak this summer. Loris Karius’ infamous night in Kyiv cast a shadow too large for Jurgen Klopp to ignore.
After several months spent scouting, and countless rumours spread, Alisson is finally a Liverpool player. His fee was massive, but how much of an improvement is he? We’ll be taking a statistical look at how his numbers from the 2017/2018 season compare with both Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet.
The breakdown will occur in a format that holds seven different categories. The domestic league statistics of each goalkeeper will be compared with one another, along with the relative significance of each.
Perhaps a strange statistic to begin with when comparing goalkeepers, however, the duties of a modern keeper have evolved to the point where their comfort with the ball at their feet has to almost rival that of an outfield player.
This is even more apparent when playing in the upper echelons of European football, which is where Liverpool finds itself.
In the 19 league games that Mignolet featured in, he averaged a pass completion rate of 69%. In the same number of matches, his teammate Karius averaged a slightly better 70%. While Alisson stood clearly ahead with a rate of 81% in his 34 appearances.
Clean sheets are typically the bread and butter of a goalkeeper’s career. They pride themselves on them, are judged by them, yet they’re not always accurately represented by them.
For example, Simon Mignolet only managed 0.17 clean sheets per game last season, while Karius racked up a whopping 0.55. Trying to argue that this disparity is due to some massive gap in quality would be incredibly difficult.
Instead, what makes more sense is to mention the fact that Loris Karius’ integration as first choice keeper almost perfectly coincided with Virgil Van Dijk’s arrival at the club.
Credit where credit is due though, Karius wins this category, while Alisson is slightly behind him with 0.44 clean sheets per match.
Saves Per Goal
This is one of the clearest and most obvious indicators of how much influence a goalkeeper has had on their team’s defending. There isn’t much to be said other than the numbers themselves.
Simon Mignolet doesn’t do himself any favours in this category, averaging 0.95 saves per goal. Comfortably ahead of him is Loris Karius with 2 saves per goal. However, Alisson finds himself far in the lead with an average of 3.41 saves per goal.
Another hallmark of the modern game, goalkeepers are given heavy responsibility with both starting attacks and launching counterattacks. For a side like Liverpool where counterattacks have proven to be one of the deadliest sources of goals, this is an especially important statistic.
Trailing behind in 3rd place in this category is Karius, who averaged a 72% distribution accuracy. Slightly ahead of him is Mignolet with 75%. And Alisson takes the cake again with an average of 83%.
It’s debatable whether this is something that keepers want to excel in or not, as sometimes notorious punchers can earn the label of being flappers.
However, there’s obviously a distinction between a punch and flap for a reason, and no one will complain if a keeper is able to consistently punch the ball well.
Mignolet lags behind the other two in this category, as he only managed to punch an average of 0.22 balls per match. Alisson is comfortably ahead of him with an average of 0.35 punches. However, Loris Karius is way ahead in the lead with 0.61 punches per match.
If given the choice, catching is almost always preferred to punching, but it definitely pays to be adequate at both.
Loris Karius can confidently say that of himself, as he finds himself comfortably ahead of Mignolet with 2.15 catches per match. The Belgian only mustered up 1.55, while Alisson is ahead of both in this category with an average of 2.56.
There are few things that instil confidence into defenders more than seeing their goalkeeper command his penalty area by catching balls thrown into the box. In a league that prides itself on this form of attack, Alisson will need to continue to excel in this regard.
Again, another barometer that doesn’t necessarily reflect a goalkeeper’s ability. However, when assessed in the context of all the other stats, it does help in painting the picture.
Yet again, Simon Mignolet finds himself lagging behind in this category, conceding 1.16 goals per match. Alisson and Karius were neck and neck, with the latter edging it with 0.77, next to the former’s 0.79.
Let’s just begin by saying that Mignolet is clearly not good enough if you go purely on these stats.
Secondly, you would be forgiven for reading these numbers and arriving at the conclusion that there isn’t much separating Karius from the man who is about to replace him.
Indeed, the German did come close to the Brazilian in certain categories, while outright winning others.
There are other stats that highlight some of Alisson’s key attributes. Such as the fact that he rushed out to clear the ball 21 times more than that of his closest competitor in Serie A last season.
And even with that being said, this is the part of the statistical piece where it’s mentioned that stats do not paint the full picture.
There are no numbers to quantify the confidence that a renowned goalkeeper like Alisson brings to a team. Similarly, a slight mistake and a howler both count as an ‘error leading to goal’ on the spreadsheet even though anyone can see the difference.
Football is a sport of nuance, that isn’t always done justice by spreadsheets. In spite of this, Alisson’s numbers are still very impressive.
He has all the traits of the perfect modern goalkeeper. And at only 25 years old, he still has his best years ahead of him.