LIVERPOOL’s crushing 7-2 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa may turn out to be a freak result, but it certainly highlighted the need for clubs to employ more than one goalkeeper at the top of his game.
Adrián may not have been the reason Liverpool shipped seven goals, indeed the entire defence looked complacent and static, but there will be some fans who will undoubtedly blame the absence of Alisson for the scale of an astonishing result.
Should clubs like Liverpool be so bereft of goalkeeping resources? Adrián, on his day, has been an adequate custodian, but would a major club rely on a veteran in a key outfield position?
Some might argue it is hard to keep two top class goalkeepers happy given there’s only one position available in the line-up. In the days of a 12-man game, that point was extremely valid, but when teams have so many substitutes and can play three of them, why is the goalkeeper seemingly immune from being replaced?
Goalkeepers generally only leave the field when they are injured or they’ve been sent off. How often has a manager taken a keeper off because he’s had a nightmare first half? It’s a struggle to come up with an example, although it has happened. Why wasn’t Adrián replaced at half-time after letting in four goals? Because Liverpool had a relatively untried player on the bench.
Managers may feel that taking a goalie off might affect the psyche of the team, but letting in four goals in 45 minutes surely has a negative impact on the mindset, does it not?
Others may avoid such a public demonstration of displeasure at the performance of a keeper, that it is an obvious and personal thing. The simple answer to that is the pay packet, they are professionals paid to deliver.
There seems to be a lack of solid understudies these days, which is all the more surprising given the structure of the sport. Clubs seem to lack the bravery to gamble on rising keepers, preferring to bring in an old hand looking for a contract.
Going back in time, the most successful example of a club “gambling” on a young player has to be Leicester’s decision to sell England keeper Gordon Banks because they had Peter Shilton coming through. What a good deal that turned out to be!
If goalkeepers become part of the strategic substitution discussion, clubs would be able to keep them happy, or at least happier. In the high-stake modern game, it seems absurd that every position does not have appropriate cover.
Furthermore, if the keeper position is so sacred, then why aren’t the transfer fees higher, and their wages higher (we’re not advocating higher wages, but surely they should be equitable with the star man at the other end of the pitch?) ?.
There’s another aspect to the loss of a brilliant keeper like Alisson and that is risk. If so much depends on that man between the sticks, then conservation of the position is vital – which points to ensuring the understudy is of a high enough standard should the main man sustain an injury.
Making sure there is high quality cover should be good for the future of goalkeeping. They should be a protected species. A lack of a decent second choice can destabilise the best of teams and cost goals and points. In all probability, it may be a one-off scoreline, as Klopp said, a case of “losing the plot”, but if Alisson is out for a while, Liverpool may need to act.