Liverpool’s start to the 2018-19 season hasn’t been flawless, but what can’t be argued is the defence—so long a question mark for this side—has increasingly become a strength, and it wouldn’t be right to call it an unexpected development.
It’s been a long time coming now, a more defensively assured Liverpool side, starting with a tactical refocus last autumn through to the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window and then the signing of Alisson over the summer.
At each step, Liverpool have looked more assured at the back. Chances given up have gone down. Goals against have gone down. After 12 league games, the Reds have impressively given up just five goals, joint best with Manchester City.
“My team have a really great defence so it is not often the ball comes near my net,” noted Alisson when asked about his role in the defence. “But I have one or two opportunities to show my quality, so I need to be focused all the time.”
That need to focus—to stay sharp even when you might not be called into action for long stretches—is a unique challenge for a goalkeeper at a top defensive side, and not one that just any top quality shot stopper can deal with.
Both Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius arrived with exceptional records as shot stoppers—and both struggled with that, the ability to go thirty minutes without a shot against and stay sharp for when a high quality chance against did arrive.
The early signs at least are that Alisson is up to the task, and that Liverpool spending more than £65M to sign him was money well spent, as the goalkeeper has helped to make an already strong defensive unit that much better.
“You have to be really focused all the time,” he added. “One thing that is important here is the concentration and focus. They are asking me to be really mentally strong. I’m working to be perfect; I’m working to be better.”