Adrian Given Huge Early Opportunity to Prove His Worth
A flying start to the season, but also something to be concerned about. Liverpool are back.
The Reds were scintillating at times in their demolition of Norwich, in a first half that epitomised why the Reds are one of the top two sides in Europe.
This was a Canaries side who eased to Championship glory last season, scoring 21 more goals from open play than any other side.
This was what the step up to the Premier League feels like, against a team who are pure joy to witness when in full flow.
If some shaky Liverpool defending was a slight negative on a positive night at Anfield, Alisson’s first half calf injury is a huge concern.
The 26-year-old looks set to miss a healthy chunk of action after being forced off on Friday night, which is a significant early blow to Liverpool’s Premier League chances.
Alisson showed last season the impact that a truly world-class goalkeeper can have – he helped further transform the Reds as a defensive outfit, finishing the campaign as the best ‘keeper in the world in the eyes of many.
Having played in all of Liverpool’s 38 league games and 13 Champions League matches in 2018/19, Jurgen Klopp suddenly has to make do without him.
In his place comes Adrian, who was afforded the luxury of making his Reds debut when his side were 3-0 up and cruising, with the match effectively already won.
The former West Ham stopper was able to take in his new surroundings, earn a huge round of applause from the home faithful and come through the game unscathed.
He may have a conceded in the second half, after Teemu Pukki found space too easily and found the net, but he should feel content with how his debut panned out.
From the get-go there was an air of confidence about Adrian, from joking with Klopp prior to his arrival on the pitch to some inch-perfect distribution.
Simon Mignolet, though very likeable as a person, never looked comfortable in his own skin as a Liverpool player, not fitting the team’s style under both Brendan Rodgers and Klopp.
Adrian, however, looked like a tailor-made Alisson replacement, exuding the same calm with the ball at his feet and never cutting the same indecisive figure as Mignolet and Loris Karius.
It’s one thing looking calm and collected when your team cruises to a win over a newly-promoted team, but the pressure on Adrian is set to intensify.
With Alisson out for the foreseeable future, the 32-year-old has a huge job on his hands filling the void at a time when early slip-ups could prove fatal.
Let’s not forget that this is no normal Premier League era that we are in – this is a period where Man City feel like winning every game, racking up in and around 100 points every season.
Being a few points adrift of them after four of five games is no good.
Liverpool have a tricky run of fixtures coming up, so this is the ultimate test of how Adrian will handle the pressure of being in goal for the European champions.
Supporters will have contrasting opinions when it comes to the importance of Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup clash with Chelsea, but it is still a trophy opportunity. Adrian will know that early silverware would be noteworthy from a personal point of view.
Then comes a trip to Southampton next Saturday, in a match that the Reds often find difficult, not least because Saints fans are so desperate to get one over on the club that has signed so many of their side’s best players.
It will arguably be a bigger test for Adrian than the Chelsea game, with potential banana skin written all over the trip to St Mary’s, and there is a fair chance that the Spaniard will be called into action.
Judging by some of the defending on show against Norwich, he may even have to rescue his team on numerous occasions – something Alisson has been so magnificent at doing since joining Liverpool.
A home clash with Arsenal follows, which is so often a fixture full of goals and entertainment.
The Gunners look an imposing attacking outfit this season, especially with the addition of Nicolas Pepe, and the magnitude of the occasion will be greater than anything Adrian played in for West Ham.
This is when second-choice goalkeepers are really tested – when they prove their worth and show they aren’t just individuals content with spending much of the season on the substitutes’ bench.
The mini-period before the first international break of the season sees Liverpool head to Burnley, for another awkward outing.
Sean Dyche’s penchant for route one football is common knowledge, and at what always seems to be a windy, unpleasant Turf Moor, Adrian will need to show dominance.
It is the same ground where Mignolet famously allowed a back-pass to roll out for a goal-kick before he chose to kick the ball, so at least Adrian hasn’t got too much to compete with at that ground!
Hopefully, he passes his opening auditions with flying colours over the next month and we see Alisson return to action after the internationals.
Liverpool need their new signing to be bang on the money in every appearance between now and whenever Alisson makes his comeback, or the Reds’ season could risk getting off to an inconspicuous start.
The early signs suggest Adrian won’t be daunted by the chance to impress, in the greatest opportunity of his career to date.