Liverpool’s start to this campaign has been almost flawless. Unbeaten in the Premier League and a Super Cup already in the bag, the only real blemish on Jürgen Klopp’s 2019/20 season so far has been the Community Shield defeat on penalties at the hands of Manchester City.
One couldn’t ask for a much better start than that, especially when you consider that the Reds have been missing arguably the best goalkeeper in the world for over two months now.
Liverpool’s business in the summer was sparse, but Klopp and co managed to hunt out another bargain in the form of veteran goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel, who cost nothing in transfer fees and is already something of a cult hero at Anfield.
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While the Spaniard certainly hasn’t had much to do behind the Premier League’s top defence, he has stood tall and firm when called upon, proving to the Anfield faithful that he’s much more than just a capable backup looking to comfortably see out his prime watching from the bench.
We must give credit where it’s due to the ex-Sevilla and West Ham man, as he came in just days after signing his contract for the Reds and fit in almost seamlessly into the squad.
Perhaps the biggest compliment to the Spanish keeper would be that it’s felt as if we almost haven’t missed Brazil’s No.1 — Alisson Becker — between the sticks because of his deputy’s performances.
Adrián has, of course, written his name in history with the Reds in the few short months he’s been here through his heroics in the Super Cup against Chelsea in Istanbul. The 32-year-old came up big when he was our last hope at success in Turkey when it came down to penalties.
His trailing leg proved decisive as he beat away Tammy Abraham’s spot-kick to secure Liverpool’s second European trophy in the span of just three months. The Super Cup was the Spaniard’s first major trophy and one both he and Liverpool supporters won’t forget anytime soon.
All goalkeepers, however, are prone to making errors — and when you’re literally the last man between your goal and the opposition’s attack those errors will be highlighted and scrutinised tenfold, compared to a misplaced pass or an errant shot from an outfield player.
Adrián, while certainly valuable to Liverpool’s hot start, proved he too is not free from mental lapses as apparent by his Karius-esque blunder that gifted Southampton a goal in a tightly-contested league match that saw the Reds squeak by with a 2-1 victory away from home.
Although Alisson too has given us supporters a few heart in mouth moments, I don’t think there’s anyone out there that would argue Adrián should keep his place once the Brazilian is fit and available again.
The Brazilian is undeniably a top three goalkeeper in the world, arguably the best. I’ve lost track of how many times our true No.1 has won points for us, by himself. I don’t think we talk about that save against Napoli enough — without it we aren’t the reigning champions of Europe, it’s that simple.
Arkadiusz Milik found himself one-on-one against the big Brazilian in the dying minutes of a must-win group stage game. Alisson stood tall and got his body in the way just enough to heroically parry the ball away in what ended up as a 1-0 victory.
We all know how that Champions League campaign went on to end as Alisson stood up to be counted again in the semi-final home leg, shutting out Barcelona at Anfield in the greatest comeback in Champions League history.
Again, in Madrid, he answered every question the likes of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, and Lucas Moura threw at him, as he was instrumental in keeping a clean sheet as the Reds went on to lift their sixth European Cup.
Alisson’s shot-stopping abilities are extraordinary, but what sets him apart from the rest is his distribution and ability with the ball at his feet. His acrobatic save against Crystal Palace last season late in the game followed by a counter-attack ending in a Xherdan Shaqiri goal practically sums up the difference it makes in a team when you have a world-class goalkeeper.
He’s not only there to keep goals out, he’s there to set off the attack.
Perhaps the Brazilians best bit of skill was against Brighton at Anfield when Virgil van Dijk played a pass back that didn’t quite have enough pace on it. Alisson calmly popped the ball over the defender and recycled play about 30 yards from his goal, as though it were standard procedure. That’s what separates the good goalkeepers from the best.
There is no denying Adrián has come in as a more-than-satisfactory backup in Alisson’s absence, but once Brazil’s No.1 is fully fit and capable there should be no hesitation from Klopp and his staff to put Alisson back between the sticks.
Adrián has performed better than most expected he would, especially considering he joined Liverpool just two months ago, but you simply cannot underestimate the value of having a world-class talent like Alisson as the last line of defence — especially for a team with lofty ambitions.
The skill-set the Brazilian possesses wins titles. Liverpool want to keep up the trend of winning silverware, so they must get Alisson back onto the pitch as soon as possible.