Liverpool have a new most important player, as true Alisson influence explained (2024)

Liverpool recorded their fourth win from five games with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Mohamed Salah starred with a goal and an assist and rightly received acclaim, but it was also another brilliant performance by Alisson Becker.

It was another brilliant performance to add to an ever-growing list. Like Salah, Alisson's brilliance is so regular it's taken for granted — it's only when he is not playing where the gap between him and other goalkeepers becomes apparent.

Caomihn Kelleher and Adrian are both very capable goalkeepers, but the difference between them and the world's best is chasmous, and while they have their own strengths they cannot replicate the way in which Alisson is world-leading in almost every aspect of his play.

The Brazilian goalkeeper is by a distance the best goalkeeper the club has ever seen. His skillset is unique and his shot-stopping talents are almost peerless.

Goalkeeping analyst John Harrison was the latest to highlight Alisson's exceptionalism, drawing attention to the manner in which Alisson has saved the last seven one-on-ones he has faced.

For the majority of the year, Alisson has been in a world of his own, considerably exceeding his post-shot xG save rates.

He currently places in the top one per cent of goalkeepers, saving 0.25xG per game ( more than the average goalkeeper. For every four goals, an average goalkeeper concedes, Alisson concedes one fewer.

For comparison, someone like Everton's Jordan Pickford — who has historically rarely overperformed or underperforming his post-shot xG — will rarely win his team matches, but also rarely lose them matches too. However, Alisson regularly wins games for Liverpool, either keeping the side in the game when scores are tied, or making match-saving saves late on.

Indeed, Liverpool's Champions League success in 2018/19 would not have been possible without Alisson's late save at Anfield against Napoli.

But this record is not just form, it's normal for Alisson. Like how top forwards like Lionel Messi and Neymar outshoot their xG, Alisson outperforms his post-shot xG. He saves shots that other goalkeepers simply can’t.

Alisson's save rate of 77.9 per cent also ranks in the top two per cent of goalkeepers, and his goals conceded per 90 rate is also in the top five per cent of goalkeepers.

There are other goalkeepers in the world who also consistently outperform their post-shot xG, such as the excellent Jan Oblak of Atletico Madrid. However, there are none as multifaceted and brilliant at shot stopping as Alisson.

During his time at Liverpool, manager Jürgen Klopp has built a tactical system that can dominate teams domestically and in Europe, and his team has done so for over two years. But there are certain players that are crucial to the system and make those performances possible. Alisson is one of those players.

It may not be immediately obvious how a goalkeeper underpins the world’s best team in transition and one of the most lethal forward lines in Champions League history, but Alisson’s skillset is absolutely central to how Liverpool press and play in possession. His high positioning and superb sweeping qualities facilitate the defence and the rest of the team being able to push up and press. While his assured manner when in possession, where he can find any player with a fast throw or a direct long pass, or when claiming aerial balls makes him an offensive asset too.

Alisson makes 1.29 defensive actions outside the penalty area per game, putting him in the top seven per cent of sweepers, while the distance of these (on average, 17.7 yards outside the area) places him in the top three per cent of most aggressive players off the line.

His assuredness and the confidence he gives to his teammates stems from his decision-making. When he comes to claim the ball, he almost always wins it there and is in control of the situation.

Even in difficult moments, his composure and coolness gives him an advantage. For instance, against Crystal Palace, a first time lob into the box was played into the path of Wilfried Zaha as the Reds pushed up. As Alisson watched Zaha break beyond James Milner he paused and forced Zaha into making a decision, not rushing in, which would have made Zaha's chance easier. Instead he waited for the lob, turned and pawed the ball onto the outside of the post.

The manner in which he did it was almost routine, whereas other goalkeepers may have rushed in, or been using every sinew in their body to stretch and reach the ball, and that's because of Alisson's greatest asset: his positioning.

Positioning is the key to Alisson’s play and why he’s not a dramatic goalkeeper who springs around the goal with one-handed saves. When making saves, Alisson rarely has to make spectacular dives, instead they always appear comfortable. This is because his positioning is exceptional.

Through small steps to adjust his position, Alisson is light on his feet and able to react to chances. His handling is superb, and he combines this handling with his positioning, regularly making two-handed saves, thereby reducing corners or chances for follow-up shots. Furthermore, he is excellent at parrying balls away from goal and out wide.

In recent seasons there have been a number of instances in which one of Alisson's saves could have fell to an opposition player running into the box, but the Brazilian goalkeeper has worked on making sure that when he makes a save it goes away from goal, especially the six-yard box and the centre of the goal.

The Brazilian's ability to read shots early contributes to this too. As he has very good balance, which derives from his excellent technique, he sees a player move into their shooting position and begins to make small adjustments, so he is set to make saves. It's why he almost never concedes goals from outside the box, with the only goal that springs to my mind being Lionel Messi's free kick in Barcelona's 3-0 Champions League semi-final victory over the Reds.

But even in that fixture, across both legs, Alisson was superb and gave the team a chance to win. His late saves at the Camp Nou, coupled with his stops against Luis Suárez, and most crucially, Jordi Alba at Anfield gave the team the platform to go on and win.

This season he has done the same, only conceding in the league from an astonishing set-piece header from Kai Havertz, and making key saves against both Norwich and Burnley as Virgil Van Dijk and Joël Matip tired late on.

Alisson's commitment to keeping a clean sheet, irrespective of whether the Reds are leading comfortably is the embodiment of the mentality monsters spirit too. The goalkeeper steps up when the team needs him, performing in big moments and saving games, but also not dropping off when matches are settled.

He is arguably the most important player in the side, not only by virtue of the unparalleled qualities he brings but because of how central he is to how the team plays. With Alisson the team can grind out games and defend for hours. That ability is essential to any team with aspirations of silverware.

High-scoring teams regularly do well, but it's no guarantee of success — being able to resist any attack and control the game though, that is what titles are built upon, and that is what Alisson bring to Liverpool.

Liverpool have a new most important player, as true Alisson influence explained (2024)
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