It amazes me how far Loris Karius’ stock has fallen in the space of a few months. His horror show in the Champions League final erased his excellent season from the minds of many Liverpool supporters; his development and hard work was cast aside as he quickly became a meme of embarrassment. With his club now trying to bring in Alisson Becker, it could be the final nail in an early coffin for the 25-year-old.
Karius is a very good keeper. Since the turn of the year, Klopp put his trust in the German and that trust was largely vindicated. He commanded his box well and made some very good saves, including that stunning fingertip stop in the Merseyside derby, to deny Yanick Bolasie. He also improved Liverpool’s build-up from the back, showcasing impressive composure with the ball at his feet. Suddenly, he’s the worst goalkeeper of all time. And with that negative hyperbole, we have the opposite in Alisson, who is being hyped to the moon and back.
Signing a keeper of Alisson’s nature is important psychologically more than anything. He is a name who many have heard of and he comes with a big reputation. Suddenly, the fans and the players start to dream big. There are positive vibes around Anfield and those vibes are priceless, ahead of a big season. Rightly or wrongly, many people had developed a sense of unease with Karius that just wouldn’t go away. The pre-season error against Tranmere reopened the anger and the insecurities of some of those that were willing to give him another chance. In fairness to the loyal followers, the position between the sticks has been a problematic area for many years. Pepe Reina, a huge fan-favourite with the Kop, declined massively from around 2010 onwards and was farmed out to Napoli, where he resurrected his career. Since then, Liverpool have started every season with Simon Mignolet as their number-one, which has frustrated the faithful immensely. The Belgian has been a mistakes merry-go-round but always seemed to compile enough convincing performances to be given another season, time and time again. The hard-line with Karius probably stems from the mediocrity that the fans had become accustomed to.
Getting back to the Brazilian, it must be remembered that he is not a prime Lev Yashin or Gianluigi Buffon; he is a very promising keeper who still has improvements that can be made to his performances.
There is an acrobatic nature to Alisson’s game. It means he’s very agile across his line and, as such, he’s been able to pull off some fine reflex saves for club and country. However, there are instances where he parries shots back into dangerous positions that have either forced him into a second save, or one of his defenders into a block or a clearance. Liverpool are a team that like to play with a higher line which means when long-range efforts come in, the keeper has to be pushing those shots wide or holding them in his grasp.
His World Cup for Brazil was fairly ordinary. If anything, one could raise a few concerns based on the way he commanded his box. Corners served a problem for the 25-year-old, who was a little suspect for two of the three goals Brazil conceded in the tournament. Steven Zuber headed Switzerland’s equaliser from inside the six-yard box as Alisson stay rooted to his line. Similarly, as Fernandinho inadvertently directed Nacer Chadli’s corner towards his own net, Alisson flailed his arms aimlessly, but couldn’t prevent the goal. It would be harsh to criticise him for that last one but we are supposedly talking about, in the eyes of some punters, one of the world’s best keepers.
On the bright side, there are obvious parallels that can be made with his fellow countryman, Ederson Moraes, and he hasn’t fared badly in Manchester. Both are very agile, almost too agile, and are capable of making some fine reflex saves for their teams.
The big thing, though, is distribution. Goalkeeping is changing and Ederson showed the Premier League what the future of goalkeeping looks like. Manuel Neuer was the original modern-day sweeper but his emergence was seen as a bit of an anomaly in the grand scheme of things. Now, following Ederson’s move to England, people talk as much about a keeper’s ability with his feet as they do for his capacity to make saves. Manchester City’s man between the sticks is an incredible passer and his confidence on the ball is comparable to that of a central-midfielder. His ball-playing skills alone really do add another dimension to Pep Guardiola’s team.
To be fair to Karius, his footwork was much better than Mignolet’s and you could see the difference in Liverpool’s style when he played, but Alisson is something else. Having someone who can ping the ball with confidence and even dribble out with it is incredible; there must be something in the Brazilian air!
Alisson will be a positive signing for the Reds. That hefty fee may always look a little steep but, in today’s market, who really is worth their valuation? It’s important to remember that he is coming into a new division and a new country so an adjustment period will be needed. He’s better than Karius but he’s not the best keeper of all time, either. A sense of perspective is needed and hopefully he’s allowed room for error, something Karius would no longer be afforded. Once you’ve lost the love of a fan-base, it’s very difficult to come back from that.