Does the arrival of Alisson make Liverpool genuine title contenders?
It is nearly 28 years since Liverpool last won a top-flight title in English football and it is fair to say that the club have struggled to match the exploits of their illustrious past during the Premier League era.
Supporters have had to be content watching from afar as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have come to dominate the top flight of English football whilst Leicester City fans will take every opportunity to highlight their own unexpected title triumph three years ago.
It would be fair to say that Liverpool have not necessarily offered many genuine challenges for the Premier League title over the last two decades. Yes, there were near misses during the reigns Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers, but those exploits have been the exception rather than the rule.
The Reds have undoubtedly made significant progress under the stewardship of Jurgen Klopp over the previous two years and there has been a sense around Anfield that the charismatic German has been building a team capable of reaching the pinnacle of the domestic game.
Reaching the Champions League final last season, although ultimately ending in defeat, highlighted how far the team have come in a relatively short space of time.
However, there has also been a sense that Klopp has been missing a couple of crucial pieces of jigsaw as he developed his new-look Liverpool side.
His team produces exciting, dynamic and fast flowing football that results in plenty of goals and entertainment, yet this has often been undermined by defensive frailties.
Ask any supporter which two positions have needed strengthening and you are likely to receive the same two answers – central defence and goalkeeper.
The purchase of Virgil van Dijk in January for £75 million was a definitive signal of intent and more than adequately fulfilled the need for a dominant, commanding central defender.
The Dutchman was increasingly impressive during the second half of the season and everyone could acknowledge the positive impact that he had on the defensive unit.
The need for a goalkeeper was ruthlessly highlighted in the Champions League final in May.
Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet had shared goalkeeping duties over the previous two seasons but it was the German stopper that had emerged as the club’s number one.
However, two crucial mistakes in Kiev ultimately gifted Read Madrid the Champions League trophy whilst firmly highlighting Liverpool’s need for a world-class goalkeeper if they had any intention of challenging the best clubs in Europe.
Therefore, the arrival of Brazilian stopper Alisson this week from Roma in a £67 million deal comes as little surprise.
The 25-year-old was the leading goalkeeper in Serie A last season, no mean feat considering the presence of Gianluigi Buffon and Gianluigi Donnarumma in the top flight of Italian football.
He was also first choice for the national team in the summer at the 2018 World Cup in Russia where he was selected ahead of Manchester City stopper Ederson, further underlining how highly he is rated.
The final piece of the jigsaw?
Jurgen Klopp has now addressed the two key issues in the Liverpool team by purchasing the best goalkeeper and central defender that money could buy – both are world record fees for players in their position – in the last two transfer windows.
Is Alisson the final piece of the jigsaw that will facilitate a genuine title challenge from Liverpool this season? Supporters are certainly hoping imagine so.
The Reds now have a squad that is full of creativity and goals whilst also now, following the arrivals of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, being built on a strong defensive foundation. You already sense that there will be a much greater balance to the Liverpool team next season.
It is also worth noting that the importance of having a world class goalkeeper is often understated in the media.
Whilst a star striker who scores goals on a regular basis may be a more appealing sight, a good stopper is worth their weight in gold and can easily earn their side an extra 10 points per season if they produce crucial saves at vital moments.
It is hard to think of a Premier League winning side that did not possess a quality goalkeeper.
Last season Manchester City had Ederson. During their most successful period Chelsea had Petr Cech in his prime. Further back, the title successes masterminded by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United were based on the goalkeeping greatness of Edwin van der Saar and Peter Schmeichel.
Liverpool have undoubtedly made rapid progress under Klopp over the previous twelve months and the German has spent over £400 million since his appointment to build a team in his own image. Alisson is the final missing piece.
Manchester City may well have waltzed to the Premier League title last season but Liverpool have positioned themselves as the club most likely to challenge the champions in the forthcoming campaign.
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