Leicester City, away, Saturday lunchtime kick-off. Let’s face it, it could have been much worse. It panned out exactly how we probably thought it would have in all honesty, too. Leicester were, well, Leicester. They gave us no time on the ball, they horrible in the tackle, they were direct even though they didn’t have Jamie Vardy to aim for with balls into the channels. It was pretty much a typical display from Leicester City side.
A year ago we’d have gone to the King Power Stadium and crumbled despite the 2-0 lead. We’d have potentially collapsed as soon as Mark Albrighton was bearing down on Joe Gomez, who was twisting one way and then another in the centre of the pitch. We’d have started moaning at Virgil Van Dijk’s wayward back-pass to the goalkeeper. Who knows what we would have done if Simon Mignolet did what Alisson Becker did on the corner of his area on the hours mark to gift Leicester a way back into the game.
It was just so needless. As the ball approaches him you’re thinking, one touch and launch it upfield lad. He takes the touch. Good, now get rid. He tries to turn. It gets stuck under his feet. What are you doing?! He scrambles across his goal trying to stop Ghezzal from scoring into the open goal. It’s in vain. The stadium erupts, Ghezzal wheels away in delight, and all Alisson can do is punch the post in disgust at himself. He should be disgusted. That was poor.
Yes, that’s right, it was poor. The new £67 million, bearded genius, footballing saviour, anyone but Mignolet, goalkeeper made a mistake. Get the pitchfork fellas, he isn’t that good after all. Well not quite, my mate. You see, Alisson is actually very good. Very, very good.
In fact, not only is he very good but Alisson was one of the best goalkeeper’s in Europe last season. Now, you have probably heard that a lot over the past few months and you’re probably sick of hearing it. Or you have heard that a lot over the past few months and have seen nothing that supports that claim, and, actually, the mistake at the weekend only hardens your view that Alisson is rather over-rated. I mean, this is the same ‘keeper we put seven past over two games only four months ago after all.
Well, if you are the latter the you are wrong. Sorry, I’m not willing to compromise on this and be the “everyone is entitled to their opinion, man” hippy everyone thinks I am. Nah, you’re just plain wrong. Alisson was indeed in the top three goalkeepers statistically last season and, as I’m sure you’re aware by now, the numbers don’t lie.
Alisson average 2.41 saves per ninety minutes last season and 3.41 saves per goal conceded. Compare that with apparently the best goalkeeper in the world, David De Gea, who racked up 3.46 saves per goal conceded, and the man Alisson replaced, Loris Karius, who made just two saves per goal. Now do you see the upgrade we have made?
The statistical bonanza doesn’t end there though, oh no. Alisson had the second best save success rate in Europe. He saved 80.1% of the shots he faced, only Jan Oblak (85.8%) had a better success rate. Again, De Gea (79.9%) was marginally inferior to our new number one. Probably the most impressive statistic though is this; Alisson conceded twenty eight goals in the Serie A last season. However, based on the amount of shots on target he faced, he was expected to concede thirty six goals – the biggest differential of any goalkeeper in Italy during 2017/18.
OK, Alisson overplays in dangerous areas and it might cost us goals sometimes. Costing us goals is fine by me as long as he is saving points which he has done in our previous three games this season and did again on Saturday. I don’t know about you but I am sick of Liverpool coming top of the tables for passing accuracy, ball retention and goals per game. Those things are good but they aren’t trophies.
They only way we are going to win trophies is by improving in key areas. Alisson has improved us massively in goal. His stats from last season point to the fact that we have a top class goalkeeper, and his style of play is something we have all been deriding Mignolet and Karius for since God was a kid. Alisson made a mistake but I guarantee he will save us more points than he will cost us this season.
So, Alisson makes a mistake. It’s not great but now we have to baton down the hatches. Leicester are going to come at us and we need to be ready, we need to be solid, we need to show character. The Liverpool of a year ago would have fell to bits. Not these boys though, with a centre back pairing so strong and powerful that they could pulverise concrete. Leicester tried and tried to unsettle us, and they did.
They tried and tried to create something, but they couldn’t. They didn’t trouble us at all. It must have been so frustrating for the neutral for Leicester to be hand-delivered a way back into the game only to do nothing with it.
The thing that gets me most though, the one thing that stands out to me while I am writing this, is that I said this last year – “this time last year we would have lost.” Now, I am not trying to show you how flakey and indecisive I am. What I am trying to display here is that Liverpool are always improving.
Since Jurgen Klopp set foot in Melwood Liverpool have continued to improve, in terms of style of play and personnel. Alisson, like Van Dijk, is symbolic of how Liverpool have improved their weaknesses. He isn’t perfect, of course he’s not. But I don’t want him to be.