Alisson turns to rugby to steady himself for set-piece tests

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Alisson turns to rugby to steady himself for set-piece tests


Liverpool’s new goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Liverpool’s new goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Jurgen Klopp has wasted no time preparing Alisson Becker, his Brazilian goalkeeper, for the idiosyncrasies of English football.

Head to Liverpool‘s training ground, witness the £65 million recruit shouldering a rugby-tackle bag into his coach and you can be forgiven for thinking he is a prop forward readying for the Six Nations, rather than a Premier League fixture.

Such techniques have long been the norm at Melwood and elsewhere, with goalkeeper coach, John Achterberg, acclimatising his charges to the bruising contact of the English top flight.

“That is what the goalkeepers always do,” said Klopp. “It is not really rugby, it is goalkeeper training. All the boys did it. When Loris (Karius) came, he did it and Alisson is doing it as well. 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. It is busy, we do it often, so that the goalkeeper gets used to that. It is about timing.”

Alisson’s introduction was serene against West Ham United last weekend, Liverpool easing to victory without facing a meaningful shot on target.

Tonight, at Selhurst Park – an ageing, compact and boisterous venue where goalkeepers face an examination of their mental, as well as physical, capabilities – will offer greater insight into why Liverpool paid Roma £65 million for the No 1.

Liverpool’s recent record at Palace is good, but Simon Mignolet and Karius never looked comfortable at such grounds.

Under Roy Hodgson, Palace may not be as direct as during the Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce or Neil Warnock eras, but Klopp accepts the challenge facing Alisson may differ from his Serie A experiences.

“We will see how that is, but first of all, we brought him here because of the things he is already good at,” said Klopp. “It is not that the goalkeeper has to change completely now for this league, we have to help him, too, in situations.

“There is not just one player responsible for something – we have to have the right formation around set-pieces. In the game, it is not that different, but set-pieces are quite different here. In the West Ham game, we were not taller than West Ham. That is where we have to keep an eye on how to defend set-pieces. It is not solely about Alisson, but the whole team.”

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England boss Gareth Southgate will be among the spectators in south London, monitoring the progress of Joe Gomez – now a centre-half for club as well as country – and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Barring injury, both will be in Southgate’s next squad, while Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka could also be on his radar.

Alexander-Arnold, after his breakthrough season and rapid promotion to the World Cup squad, needs to build on momentum. Youngsters can often suffer a dip, but Klopp has not felt a need to be cautious with the teenager.

“No need. He was desperate to come back,” said Klopp.

“I’m not a bit in doubt about Trent. I didn’t have to tell him to refocus. He’s a very smart, serious football player already. He wants to play, wants to perform, wants to show his best.

“He struggled in his first pre-season game. It was quite funny to see that even Trent was playing like he had two wooden sticks. His second pre-season game was much better, then came the West Ham game.

“His crosses were flying nearly over the stand on the other side, but then he stayed cool and played one of the best passes I saw since I don’t know when – to Naby Keita – through all of the West Ham team pretty much.

“Two passes after that, we scored a goal. That was a big influence.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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