Alisson: Delivering Big Moments In Liverpool's Title Bid
Sunday’s 2-0 win at Cardiff was enough to push Liverpool to 88 points thus far, their highest points tally of the Premier League era with three games still to play. Crucially, it also means the pressure remains firmly on Manchester City, with the coming week seeing them travel to Old Trafford before a potentially tricky away trip to Burnley. Meanwhile, you’d think the visit of Huddersfield at Anfield would be nothing other than a routine win for The Reds, enabling them to continue present momentum with hopes of ending a twenty-nine year wait for a domestic title looking healthy at the business end of the season.
A mark of the phenomenal progress made since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival on Merseyside, the game also brought about the club’s nineteenth clean sheet of the league campaign, emphasising the defensive work that has been done to turn a stuttering ship riddled with individual errors to one primed by authoritative and reliable figures. Where the past had produced moments where Liverpool looked physically incapable of challenging for the top-four let alone viable silverware due to inconsistencies and an all-around lack of quality in their own third, the club now possess steady foundations that are firmly underpinning the current squad.
Joel Matip deserves immense credit for the way he’s slotted into the side alongside Virgil van Dijk following the injury to Joe Gomez. Coming in as arguably fourth-choice centre-back, the Cameroonian has established himself as a reliable peg in the heart of the defence, accompanying the two-pronged attacking threat of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson.
However, one man stood out at the back in Wales. Having largely been on the periphery during the first-half such was Liverpool’s possessional dominance, Alisson made a crucial intervention to prevent a header from Oumar Niasse going under the inside of the bar. Against the run of play, it would’ve been a detrimental blow to Klopp’s side, particularly given the ramifications of any slip-ups at this stage of the season.
The mark of a truly world-class goalkeeper is their ability to react at a moments notice, retaining composure and focus throughout despite being untroubled previously. The Brazilian’s quick-reflexes to deny Cardiff an opening goal proved to be another big moment, providing the platform from which the win was achieved.
A pinpoint save from close-range against Andre Gomes in December and an incisive interception to stifle Jesse Lingard at Old Trafford provide earlier examples of his role in the current title challenge while an instrumental save against Napoli ensured Liverpool’s progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League. There have been mistakes or instances when Alisson could’ve done better but there is little doubt that his arrival has sparked a total resurgence within the club, marking a stark improvement from Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet, both of whom have been littered with errors throughout their Anfield careers.
Now on nineteen clean sheets, Alisson’s record is the best achieved in the Premier League season in 10 years and is equal to the tally Pepe Reina established in 2006/07 – an achievement that saw him win the Golden Glove. Indeed, he has recorded more clean sheets than David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois.
Liverpool’s favourable looking run-in gives the former-Roma man a great chance to extend his tally to twenty-two clean sheets, the second-most since the Premier League era, a further indication of the phenomenal impact he’s made since joining in the summer.
Should The Reds cap an unprecedented campaign with silverware, whether it be the PL or UCL, Alisson will have had a huge part to play. For all the plaudits lauded on Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and more recently Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita for their resurgent midfield performances, the Brazilian has made a huge difference, helping to catapult the club after the heartbreak of Kiev.