By Sam McGuire, Football Whispers
Soccer is all about moments. Match-winning moments. Game-changing moments. Moments of individual brilliance. And moments of madness.
The biggest clubs in the world pay top dollar for players who deal primarily in the former three, and that’s just what Liverpool did in the summer when they agreed to give Roma $89 million, which was a world record fee for a goalkeeper at that point.
However, the Brazil No.1 arrived on Merseyside with a reputation. Minds had been made up. He was a modern-day goalkeeper who thrived with the ball at his feet while his actual ability when it came to keeping the ball out of the back of the net was something of an afterthought for many.
A moment of madness against Leicester City heaped more pressure on the Liverpool No.13. He played himself into trouble in a scenario which would have been a routine clearance for most goalkeepers. He feinted to play a pass and turned back on himself, just as he did in the previous game against Brighton and Hove Albion. Kelechi Iheanacho read the situation well but was fortunate not to give away a free-kick for a push. The latter part was swept under the rug in favour of micro analysing everything Alisson did when in possession.
That was matchday four. The 1-0 win over Everton brought matchday 14 to a close and he’s not repeated that mistake. He still plays his part in Liverpool building out from the back but, like with all elite players, he does it in a way that shows he’s learnt from a previous error. He doesn’t look flustered when the ball is at his feet. There’s not a single sign of self-doubt.
The Reds wanted a confident and composed keeper. In Alisson, they have just that. The 26-year-old has wasted no time in changing the minds of all of those who doubted him as a shot-stopper.
The former Internacional keeper is racking up game-changing moments like they’re going out of fashion. Against Chelsea he kept the scoreline at 1-0 when Eden Hazard raced through. It looked as though the Belgian superstar was going to double the hosts’ lead but Alisson stood tall and thwarted the Chelsea No.10. Liverpool went on to equalize in the last minute to salvage a point and keep their unbeaten start to the season intact.
The 6ft 3” shot-stopper made a huge save against Arsenal after Lucas Torreira waltzed past the Liverpool midfield and into the penalty area. The Reds held a 1-0 advantage at the time and went on to pick up an important away point. He made a sprawling save against Huddersfield Town during the 1-0 victory over the Terriers. Laurent Depoitre’s header appeared to be destined for the bottom corner until Alisson made the smart stop.
He also showed great agility to keep Riyad Mahrez’s ferocious low effort out in the 0-0 draw with Manchester City. He’s one of the key factors behind the Reds conceding the fewest number of goals in the Premier League this term.
Their xGA (expected goals against) tally of 11.58 shows the opposition are creating opportunities but are failing to make them count. More often than not it’s down to Alisson between the sticks. No other team in English’s top flight can boast such an impressive overperformance (6.58) when comparing goals conceded to xGA. A detailed look at the goalkeepers in the Premier League can be found here.
Alisson’s been quietly impressing throughout but in recent matches people have begun to appreciate just how good he truly is.
Away in Paris, the Liverpool keeper kept the Reds in the game. Paris Saint-Germain carved out a number of opportunities in the first half but the Brazilian pulled off a number of saves to keep the game alive. Unfortunately, for the Merseysiders, they couldn’t find an equalizer.
It was different in the derby, however, as Alisson’s heroics weren’t in vain. Despite a bright start for the home side, Liverpool could’ve found themselves behind inside of 30 minutes. On-loan Barcelona midfielder André Gomes found space in the six-yard box and his diving header was saved from point-blank range. It was similar to his stop against Edinson Cavani during the defeat to PSG on Wednesday.
He makes himself big and it smothers the space in the goal. The ball doesn’t hit him. He makes sure he hits the ball.
The second game-changing moment in the Merseyside derby was on 35 minutes. Neat play by Gylfi Sigurðsson saw Theo Walcott race into the penalty area and onto a pass. Virgil van Dijk was in no-man’s land. Andrew Robertson had tracked the run of Walcott but couldn’t commit otherwise the referee would have had no choice but to point to the penalty spot.
Many keepers in this situation fly out, catch the player and gift the opposition a penalty. But Alisson managed to get one of his bear-like hands to the ball, knocking it against Walcott and turning what was a dangerous opportunity into a goal-kick for the Reds.
Amid the dramatic final few seconds of the match, it’s the sort of thing that won’t be remembered for very long but without that moment, the Reds find themselves behind.
He’s growing into a jersey that had drowned so many before him, and the responsibilities which come with it, as the season progresses and he’s proving to be worth every single penny of the near $90 million Liverpool paid for him.