Alisson Becker hoists the Champions League trophy

We are halfway into pre-season and less than three weeks away from the start of the 2021/2022 season. As such, we are going to take a look at the strength of the Liverpool squad and judge their readiness for all the challenges that lie ahead in what promises to be another enthralling season. Where there are gaps, we will point out and suggest possible closures.

“A world class goalkeeper earns you 20 points a season.”

Alisson Becker heading home vs West Brom

First place to start, is of course, the goalkeeping department. Liverpool are heading into the season with three first team keepers; Alisson Becker, Caoimhin Kelleher and Adrian San Miguel, in that pecking order. We will take a look at each of them and conclude as to whether the Reds are well stocked in that department or fall short.

Alisson Becker

In Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Ramses Becker, Liverpool have a truly world class talent. The 28 year old was signed from AS Roma in 2018 for a world record fee of £56million rising to £66.8million in add-ons. He joined after winning the Golden Glove in the Serie A and being named the Best keeper in Italy. In his first season in England, he won the Premier League Golden Glove award after keeping 21 clean sheets as Liverpool finished on 97 points only to come second and miss out on the title by a point.

In the Champions League, his huge point blank save in the last minute of added time against Napoli saw his club advance into the knockout stages. Alisson put in several top class performances throughout the tournament, with the one at home to Barcelona in that famous comeback, sticking in the memory. He went on to make an astonishing eight saves in the final against Tottenham to keep a clean sheet and bring ‘Ol Big Ears home.

He had quite an astonishing 2019, months after winning the Champions League, he went on to win the Copa America with Brazil and again won the Golden Glove award as well as being named the Goalkeeper of the Tournament. This culminated in FIFA naming him the Best Goalkeeper in the world and awarding him the inaugural Yashin trophy. His first inclusion in the Fif-Pro World XI followed.

In the 2019/20 season, injuries started creeping in, as Alisson suffered a calf injury on the opening day of the Premier League season, which kept him out for almost ten weeks and saw him miss the UEFA Super Cup. After making 51 appearances in his maiden season, he was limited to only 37 across all competitions in his second season, with 29 coming in the Premier League.

It was still a successful season though, as he played his part in ending Liverpool’s 30 year wait for the league title. His standout moment of that thrilling campaign was him sprinting the length of the pitch to celebrate with Mohamed Salah after his raking long ball had put the Egyptian through to seal the win against bitter rivals Manchester United. Another inclusion in the Fif-Pro World XI followed along with several other accolades.

Alisson Becker poses with the Premier League title with Robert Firmino (L) and Fabinho (R)

Alisson had a tougher time of things in his third season at the club. Another injury, this time a shoulder complaint, saw him miss four Premier League games (he made 42 appearances in all competitions). And a centre back crisis infront of him saw him play with virtually a different partnership every game as Liverpool went through a terrible run of form that saw them lose six Premier League home games in a row, a far cry from the 44 game unbeaten run they were so proud of.

Alisson himself saw his form take a nosedive and it came to a head against Manchester City, as two unforced errors gave City two goals as they romped to a 4-1 victory at Anfield. Unbeknownst to the outside world, the 6ft 3inch goalkeeper was suffering a personal hell. His father had gone missing in his native Brazil and search parties had come up empty.

On the 24th of February 2021, two weeks after the City debacle, it was revealed that his father had drowned in a lake after going for a swim. Due to the global pandemic, Alisson could not go back home to be with his family in their time of need. A difficult period for the Brazilian saw him given time off as he missed the Premier League game away to Sheffield United.

To Alisson’s credit, he took the love the football world showed him, and climbed back up on that proverbial horse as he made himself available for selection in the run-in with Liverpool’s top four hopes hanging by a thread. He responded brilliantly as he kept five clean sheets in the last ten Premier League games of the season which saw Liverpool win eight and draw two. And that’s without mentioning the extraordinary stoppage time winning goal he scored against West Brom when it seemed all hopes for Champions League qualification was lost.

Alisson mobbed by his teammates after scoring

Alisson is well loved by his teammates, his manager and the Liverpool fanbase. He’s settled on Merseyside with his wife Natalia and their three kids. He has three more years on his contract but rumours are rife that he’s about to sign a new deal. He is up there with the best in the world and Liverpool will be hoping the injury problems he’s had in the past two seasons will stay in the past.

Caoimhin Kelleher

The 22 year old Irishman joined Liverpool’s Academy from Ringmahon Rangers in the summer of 2015. He worked his way through the youth teams before finally featured regularly for the first team during the pre-season programme of 2018 and was part of the squad that travelled to the United States for Liverpool’s summer tour.

He was an unused substitute for the 2019 Champions League final win over Tottenham Hotspurs and was also on the bench for Liverpool’s victory in the 2019 UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea due to an Alisson injury. He made his competitive debut for the club on 25th September, 2019 in an EFL Cup Third Round match, keeping a clean sheet against League One side MK Dons, in a 2–0 away win.

A week later, he was again given the nod in the EFL Cup, this time, a fourth round home tie against Arsenal. Caoimhin had a somewhat difficult game as a few parries were punished by Arsenal and he ended up conceding 5 goals. In what was a crazy game, the score was somehow 5-5 at the end as a Liverpool side mainly made up of youngsters ended 90 minutes level and headed to the lottery of a penalty shootout. Caoimhin crucially saved Dani Ceballos’ spot kick to allow Curtis Jones score the winning penalty in what was a momentous occasion for the Liverpool Academy.

Jurgen Klopp hugs Kelleher after his penalty heroics

In December, he got another start as he lined up for the 5th round of the EFL Cup with a team comprising exclusively of the U23s as the senior team had other commitments on the other side of the planet with the Club World Cup. A thankless task of an afternoon ended with a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Aston Villa’s senior side, a very harsh lesson for the quiet and unassuming goalie.

In February, Caoimhin made his 4th appearance for the senior side as he again lined up with a team comprising of youngsters to take on Shrewsbury at Anfield in the FA Cup. With the famous backing of the Anfield crowd, Caoimhin kept a clean sheet as the youngsters prevailed 1-0.

It was the 2020/21 season that really saw Caoimhin come into his own. On 1st December 2020, he was given his Champions League debut away to Ajax in a huge group game with Alisson again injured. He made some spectacular saves, one in the last minute from a Huntelaar header the standout, en route to keeping a clean sheet in a vital 1-0 win. Five days later, he had to make his Premier League debut, this time a home clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers. He was again solid, and showed quick footwork to backtrack and tip Podence’s chip over the bar. He kept his sheet clean again as the Reds romped to a 4-0 win.

His comfort in possession and calm demeanour meant he fit well in the team and could play out of the back like coach Jurgen Klopp wants his keepers to do. The Champions League came calling again, with a trip to Midjtylland in the last game of the group stages. Kelleher was harshly adjudged to have fouled a striker and conceded a penalty to halt his streak of three clean sheets in a row. In January, he played in a 4-1 win in the FA Cup third round against Aston Villa who had to use their U23s due to a covid-19 outbreak among their first team squad.

The following month he faced Brighton in the Premier League in the middle of the club’s wretched home run. A 1-0 defeat came in spite of Kelleher pulling off a number of good saves.  After several strong performances, manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed that Kelleher had been promoted to second choice, behind Alisson and ahead of Adrian.

On 24 June 2021, Kelleher signed a new long-term deal with the club until 2026, saying “For me, it was a positive moment to commit my future to the club for the next few years. It’s such a big club and it’s an honour to be a part of it, so when I got the chance to sign for a few more years I was obviously delighted.” An international debut for Ireland also followed as he enjoyed himself a breakthrough 2020/21 season.

The 22 year old has made nine appearances and kept four clean sheets so far for the senior team (which could have been more had an unfortunate abdominal tear not kept him out for weeks). Kelleher has kept a clean sheet on his senior debut, on his Champions League debut and on his Premier League debut. At 22 years and 13 days, he became the youngest goalkeeper in Liverpool history to keep a clean sheet on his first Premier League start. He has definitely shown why he was so highly regarded by the Academy coaches, as well as goalkeeper coach John Archterberg, and why he was never sent out on loan.

He is going into this season as the second choice and has proven himself capable of stepping in the breach when necessary. Nothing seems to faze him, he is as cool as they come. He’s earned the trust of the Liverpool faithful and fans should not worry if they see his name on the team sheet.

Adrian San Miguel

In August 2019, Liverpool announced that Adrián had signed on a free transfer after Simon Mignolet had left for Club Brugge. Just four days after the transfer was announced, he made his debut for the club in a 4–1 win against Norwich City, coming on in the 39th minute to replace the injured Alisson. Five days later, Adrián started in the 2019 UEFA Super Cup as he enjoyed a whirlwind start to his Liverpool career. In extra-time, he conceded a soft penalty for a supposed foul on Tammy Abraham, from which Jorginho was able to level the scores and take the game to penalties. Adrián saved Abraham’s penalty (poetic justice) in the shootout to win Liverpool their first trophy of the 2019/20 season with a 5–4 victory on penalties. It was also the first trophy of Adrián’s career.

Adrian next to Jordan Henderson as he lifts the Super Cup

Adrián kept playing in the continued abscence of Alisson. He got away with one when his attempted pass from the back was charged on by Danny Ings, resulting in the ball deflecting into the net. Liverpool had a comfortable 2-0 lead at that point and had to dig deep to seal the win. He made his Champions League debut against Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo on 17 September. Although he made a remarkable save from Belgian international Dries Mertens when it was goalless, Adrian fell to his first defeat as a Liverpool player with a 2–0 scoreline.  

On 3rd March 2020, Adrian made an error in the FA Cup clash away to Chelsea that saw Liverpool eliminated in a 2-0 defeat. A week later, he stood in for Alisson as Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League by Atlético Madrid. Already 1–0 down from the first leg in Spain, Liverpool lost 3–2 at Anfield with Adrian at fault for gifting Atleti an all important away goal when it looked like the comeback was complete. He didn’t cover himself in glory in the subsequent goals either as Atleti’s confidence grew from the first goal to ran away with the tie.

By the following season, Adrian had lost the goodwill of fans. No longer was he on the fast track to becoming a cult hero. He had become something of a running joke and a name which filled fans with dread anytime it appeared on the team sheet. A shambolic showing in the staggering 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa was the final nail in the coffin for most. The mistakes had become too frequent. As of October 2020, Adrián had made five errors directly leading to goals in his 21 appearances for Liverpool – as many as first-choice Alisson had in 92 games. 

Despite his errors, manager Klopp defended him, “Adrian is a really good goalie. He played 11 games last year, we won all of them”. But as with most managers, Jurgen Klopp’s actions speak louder than his words at times, and it was telling when he demoted Adrian to third choice goalkeeper behind Alisson and Kelleher. He still made the odd appearance here and there, a clean sheet away to Sheffield when Alisson was on compassionate leave and Kelleher was out with his abdominal tear was helpful.

This summer, Liverpool announced they had extended his expiring contract by a year to the chagrin of supporters. But in truth, as third choice, he is unlikely to see any pitch time. Alex Manninger and Andy Lonergan served in such capacity in recent years and never made an appearance. It seems, Klopp wants an experienced third choice who will just keep the first two on their toes in training and help the professionalism as well as camaraderie in the dressing room. At 34, Adrian has had a long career and has the required experience. He’s also well liked by his teammates and helps the Spanish speakers settle into the club as he did with Thiago Alcantara. Most fans will be okay with him having more impact in the dressing room than on the pitch.

To conclude, Liverpool’s goalkeeping department isn’t an area of worry. Not unless there’s an injury crisis of biblical proportions like we saw at centre back last season. Alisson is world class, and Kelleher is a talented young goalkeeper. Liverpool will hope between those two, there’s enough luck with injuries to cover the games necessary.



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