Liverpool summer signing Adrian has the quality to become an able deputy to injured Alisson
Adrian suits the way the team play but his biggest advantage is his mental strength. He will not be cowed by the pressure of playing for Liverpool. He has a bit of swagger about him
Alisson Becker’s injury is an obvious concern for Jurgen Klopp but it could have happened at a worse time. Liverpool play Chelsea in the Super Cup in Istanbul tomorrow and this glorified friendly is the perfect game to allow Adrian, who was picked up on a free transfer last week, to acclimatise himself to the defence.
The former West Ham goalkeeper is not a serious threat to the Brazilian but Adrian is a significant upgrade on Simon Mignolet, who moved to Brugge during the transfer window. The main differences between the two goalkeepers are that of style and confidence. The Spaniard is much better with the ball at his feet and can spark counter-attacks – something Klopp demands from his No 1s.
Adrian suits the way the team play but his biggest advantage over the Belgian is his mental strength. He will not be cowed by the pressure of playing for Liverpool. He has a bit of swagger about him.
Until Alisson arrived from Roma for £66 million last year, the goalkeeping role had been one of Anfield’s problem spots for almost half a decade. It was not a position that Klopp thought about much until his arrival on Merseyside. At Liverpool it became one of the German’s most vexing issues.
The roots of the situation were in Pepe Reina’s wages. Before Fenway Sports Group (FSG) took over nine years ago, the inept previous regime decided to pay Reina more than £100,000 per week. The new American owners rightly judged this to be a ludicrous amount for a goalkeeper and signed Mignolet for £9m from Sunderland. The logic was that replacing Reina with a much cheaper option would mean cutting the wages for the position by some 60 per cent. It was accepted that there could be some drop-off in performances but they would be nowhere near the ratio of the reduction in salary.
The problem was that a five per cent fall in goalkeeping efficiency has a massive impact on results. Brendan Rodgers, the manager at the time, was unconvinced by Mignolet’s ability, presence and personality and the scepticism spread to Boston. Even Linda Pizzuti, the wife of the club’s principal owner John W Henry, questioned why the Belgian was struggling so badly. Even someone as new to the game as Pizzuti could see things were not working.
Yet Liverpool did not upgrade.
Loris Karius was brought in from Mainz after Klopp’s appointment but if anything things got worse. Both first and second choice goalkeepers were unreliable. Mignolet would struggle to recover from his errors, overthinking their importance, and Karius seemed to never learn from his mistakes. The flawed recruitment policy culminated in the meltdown in Kiev, when Karius literally threw away a Champions League final and gifted two goals to Real Madrid in their 3-1 win.
Alisson’s signing was in response to this. Klopp talked about the 26-year-old being out for “a couple of weeks” with the calf injury he sustained against Norwich City on Friday and it would be a surprise to see him back before the international break. A year ago this would have been a crisis.
Adrian may not have Alisson’s range of abilities but he has similar cockiness. The 32-year-old will rebound quickly from any blunders and not let mistakes affect his concentration. He is a good communicator with his back four – another area where Mignolet and Karius had issues – and will command the box.
His brash approach was illustrated four years ago when he scored the penalty that knocked Everton out of the FA Cup. With the shootout level at 8-8, the goalkeeper approached the ball, flicked off his gloves and dispatched the spot-kick with aplomb. “I didn’t have nerves,” he said afterwards. “I thought, ‘I’ll take off my gloves, this game is over,’ and I struck the ball.”
That is the attitude Klopp was looking for when Adrian signed. It was not just a cheap deal. That mind-set will stand the backup – and the team - in good stead until Alisson returns.
In some ways the first injury of the season was fortuitous for Liverpool. It came in a position where the club had upgraded the squad in the summer. The lack of transfer activity during the window is a concern because the playing staff does not have the depth that Manchester City can call upon. The main focus in the coming months will be on sustaining a title challenge and retaining the Champions League. Klopp cannot afford too many of his first XI to spend much time on the sidelines.
The manager will want Alisson back as soon as possible but, in the short term, his absence should not hurt the team too badly. Adrian is likely to prove an adequate deputy.