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Alisson remains head and shoulders above the rest after No. 1’s rocky year

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Alisson has already written his name into Liverpool folklore and won the biggest trophies – though none were added this time, he has made just as big a contribution.

It’s probably right to say that, financially – and even in a Covid world – Liverpool could absorb a year or so outside of the Champions League.

There might not be the big new addition, there might not be millions to throw at renewing every area of the side which requires it, but Liverpool have a good enough team and manager to bounce back 12 months from now and get back among Europe’s elite.

Probably.

Because you see, football doesn’t work in linear progression and regression. Premier League rivals don’t spend, improve, mess up in their recruitment or get (un)fortunate decisions at a similar rate to each other.

Put simply, there’s no way of knowing if Liverpool‘s absence would have been just a year, or whether we’d have lost an extra star, failed to attract numbers with the required quality in the summer or even done everything right off the pitch, but lost our aura of confidence on it.

Thankfully, despite a campaign that tested the physical and mental resilience of our Brazilian No. 1 in particular, we don’t need to know.

Because Alisson, again in particular, was head and shoulders above the opposition when it mattered most – figuratively and literally speaking.

Alisson, 2020/21

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 42 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 0
Unused sub: 1
Goals: 1!
Clean sheets: 15

Overall Season Rating: 8.0 (3rd)

 

A season of mitigating circumstances

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, May 13, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Injury. Illness. Defence disintegrating in front of him. And a tragedy in the family.

Listed out that way, it’s a wonder Alisson had as good a season as he did, played even the amount of games he did.

There were certainly one or two spells where he was nowhere near his usual level – but then who was in red?

The campaign started with the Brazilian stopper suffering a shoulder injury that was meant to keep him out for six weeks, the first game he missed being the 7-2 drubbing by Aston Villa.

That eventually led to a changing of the guard in the pecking order behind Alisson, but it was far from the only time he was absent himself.

Liverpool, in fact, used no fewer than seven goalkeepers throughout the season as a whole, from Adrian and Caoimhin Kelleher to youngsters Vitezslav Jaros, Harvey Davies, Liam Hughes and Jakub Ojrzynski – most of these to fill bench spots and simply cope with Ali’s absences.

After that initial injury for Alisson – which he returned from far quicker than expected – he suffered another injury to his hip which saw him miss three games, before sitting out another couple through illness over winter.

By Christmas, Jurgen Klopp had been able to select him for just half the Champions League group matches and 11 of 14 in the league.

Amid that, inconsistency should have been expected. Certainly, decision-making at times appeared rather dubious.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker looks dejected as Manchester City score the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. Manchester City won 4-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip disappeared in front of him in turn, before the same fate befell Fabinho and, eventually, Jordan Henderson. Then Ozan Kabak later in the season, too, of course.

How can a goalkeeper who helps organise a defence do precisely that when there’s only a strapped-together, mismatched rabble which changes on a game-to-game basis?

Yet the toughest challenge of all for a player who places so much emphasis on his strength of faith had nothing whatsoever to do with appearance numbers, the pitch or the club.

The death of his father in February was, and doubtless is, a hurt and a preoccupation too enormous for words – made all the more acute by the fact the state of the world meant he could not travel to be with his family in Brazil.

Only time, and the knowledge of having the support of those around him, could help with that.

 

Elite in both boxes, just when required

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 23, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker prays before the final FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He certainly had the support, there’s no mistaking that.

There came a point in the season when Liverpool simply had to win, then win some more, and then win some more again.

There was no margin for (more) error(s), no room for excuses after a campaign of giving up points and failing to score enough when the chances came along.

At the back end of the season, Liverpool improved significantly – and either driving that upturn in fortunes, or thriving at the same time as it, was Alisson.

If he had been questionable against Real Madrid only shortly beforehand, Alisson was rock solid and making vital saves against Leeds and Southampton, a Man of the Match candidate in both with a series of blocks, one-on-one moments and quick distributions which showed he remains the best in the league.

Then came a trip to West Brom and a moment no Red will ever forget.

2FND1T6 Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson celebrates scoring their side's second goal of the game with team-mates during the Premier League match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich. Picture date: Sunday May 16, 2021.

The timing, the execution, the celebration or the feeling of jubilation and possibility as the ball hit the back of the net – it’s impossible to say which was best, after Alisson planted an inch-perfect header into the far corner for a stoppage-time winner.

It was, for Liverpool fans, the moment of the campaign.

A job still remained and Alisson wrapped up the season with back-to-back clean sheets – needing some big early saves against Palace on the final day – to take his tally to 10 in 33 games in the Premier League, with fewer than one goal conceded per league appearance.

Not bad for a down season with no defence, hey?


Best moment: Come on! Do we even need to say?

Worst moment: We’ll stick with on the pitch, obviously. A couple of really poor errors cost Ali and Liverpool against Man City. Not great against Leicester or Real Madrid either

Role next season: Liverpool No. 1 and Golden Glove winner


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