The days of Tony Pulis’ Stoke City posing their particular less than pleasant brand of rough and rugged football on cold rainy nights in the West Midlands may be in the past, but the Premier League still has something of a reputation for physicality.
This is particularly true around the penalty area, where goalkeepers often have to fight their way through traffic in a way that simply isn’t seen in Europe’s other top leagues—and a lot of that is down to the likes of Crystal Palace, who Liverpool face tonight.
That poses a unique set of challenges when it comes to preparing a goalkeeper, especially one like Alisson who is new to the league. West Ham on opening weekend may not have posed a particularly physical challenge, but Palace is another matter.
“It is not rugby, it is goalkeeper training,” noted manager Jürgen Klopp when asked about the use of tackle bags—the solid foam towers used to practice tackling form in rugby and American football—this week to help Alisson prepare for the game.
Clogging the area with obstacles and forcing the ‘keeper to fight for crosses and corners might not be quite the same as what they’ll face in an actual game, but it’s something Klopp and other managers rely on ahead of particularly physical opponents.
“It is normal goalkeeper training,” he added. “It makes sense to do it because the six-yard area is not a safety box for a goalkeeper. We have these situations in training constantly when we do set-pieces and the box is full with 22 players.
“It is busy, we do it often so that the goalkeeper gets used to that. It is all about timing. We will see how that is, but first of all we brought [Alisson] here because of the things that he is already good at.”