Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker can take a joke, fortunately. Funny remarks often crop up on his Twitter account between biblical texts, spectacular saves and statements of support for Covid vaccination. “I married a doctor, at least that’s more useful than marrying a mannequin’, he once remarked, a subtle reference with to many collegue football players who make a different choice. And when the American comedian and almost namesake Alison Becker humorously exploited the confusion between the two, the Brazilian goalkeeper retweeted het messages. ‘Very pleased that Liverpool has signed me as goalkeeper,” Alison joked on July 17, 2018 when Alisson Becker made the transfer to the English club. And when the goalkeeper injured his calf a year later, the comedian texted: ‘My calves are fine guys, thank you.’ After a red card for the Brazilian in December 2019, the American continued: ‘Can someone tell me how many duels I have been eliminated for. I wanted to get my nails done.’
Hardly any team scored against Alisson in the 2019-20 championship season, leading to flattering memes about the impossibility of scoring against him. Like the one below with a photo of a sardine can with a double lid.
When you finally get past Van Dijk and than you come up against Alisson
In the past season, not only Becker’s sense of humor, but also his self-mockery was put to the test. Becker suddenly had to take the blows, not only in the goal but also on social media. A joker thought that a margarine brand would sponsor Becker, a reference to his supposedly buttery hands: all balls suddenly seemed to slip through them. Or with photos of Becker next to those of failed Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius: “It’s striking how someone’s true face can show up after a good shave.
But how good is Alisson really? In the Premier League statistic of big mistakes leading to goals, Alisson underperformed last season. With three dramatic errors, he scores just as badly as Spanish keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was sacked at Chelsea.
Blunders draw attention, but structural performance may be more important. Despite the praise for Alisson in the championship season and the fierce criticism in the following season, the Brazilian keeper’s save percentage has been quite stable in recent years. In the 2020-21 season, Alisson stopped 74.8 percent of all shots fired at his Liverpool goal. Five goalkeepers fared better, with Burnley keeper Nick Pope the very best. In the 2019-20 championship season, Alisson’s save percentage in the Premier League was 72.2 percent and he had to give way to six other goalkeepers.
Football statisticians have come up with an even more precise statistic in recent years to capture the quality of goalkeepers in numbers: The difference between the number of goals expected, depending on location and shot quality, and the number of actual goals conceded by a goalkeeper: post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed (PSxG-GA). Remarkably, Alisson performed just below the average of goalkeepers in the Premier League in the 2019-20 championship season with a allowed number of goals that was 0.02 higher than the number of goals expected according to this calculation. Last season Alisson fared much better with 5.9, a third-place finish behind Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Aureola (7.6) and Aston Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez (7.4).
On top of that, Alisson didn’t just make his contribution on the goal line last season. It’s May 2021 and Liverpool are fighting for their last chances of Champions League entry. In the last second of the game against West Brom, the 1.91 meter tall Alisson storms into the West Brom penalty area in the pouring rain. When Alexander Arnold crosses he jumps high from the ground at the first post and nods the ball into the far corner, had and precisely Never before has a goalkeeper scored the winning goal for his club in the Permier League. In thanks, Alisson raises his arms to God in heaven. Liverpool will eventually finish the season in third place, enough to play in the Champions League again, next season in 2021-22.