Liverpool: Klopp admits performances are sub-par
Liverpool’s defeat to Brighton at Anfield on Wednesday night was a damaging one in many ways for the Reds, who now appear almost certain to relinquish their Premier League crown, most likely to the relentless Manchester City.
There were very few positives as the Reds slipped to a second successive 1-0 home defeat having lost by the same scoreline to Burnley less than a fortnight earlier, a loss that ended a 68-game and near four-year unbeaten run in the league at Anfield.
Nat Phillips and Jordan Henderson fared relatively well in central defence against the Seagulls but elsewhere outfield there were a number of experienced players well below their best.
But it was the youngest member of Liverpool’s starting eleven who emerged with the most credit, showing that perhaps a problem that previously appeared severe for the Reds has now been solved.
Liverpool of course miss the quality of Alisson in between the sticks whenever he does not play, with the Brazilian firmly established as one of the best goalkeepers in world football.
But 22-year-old Caoimhin Kelleher yet again performed solidly in Alisson’s absence against Brighton, with the Liverpool No 1 absent due to illness but thankfully not Covid.
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Republic of Ireland youth international Kelleher has now made five first-team appearances for Liverpool this season and appears a capable stand-in.
Almost a year ago, Liverpool fans were up in arms after Adrian – the previous second-choice to Alisson – made several errors to cost them in their Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid.
The 34-year-old is out of contract in the summer and looks set to leave Merseyside having been demoted to third choice with the younger Kelleher knocking him down the pecking order.
Adrian has played five times this term, most notably in the 7-2 loss at Aston Villa, but has not featured since the dramatic October 17 draw against Everton at Goodison Park.
The ex-West Ham keeper was not even in the match-day squad in eight of Liverpool’s last 11 Premier League matches, though was in reserve against West Ham and Brighton.
Kelleher has proven in his cameos, as he did even in defeat at Brighton, that he is a solid shot-stopper but he is also superior with the ball at his feet to his older counterpart.
A minor criticism might be that he was sometimes slow to move the ball out of his feet against Brighton but generally he has shown promise in spotting and executing a pass.
Against Brighton, the Cork-born shot-stopper saved well from Pascal Gross and Leandro Trossard and could do little to prevent Steven Alzate’s effort finding the corner of the net.
It says much about Kelleher’s performance levels that when Alisson is out, there is not the same level of panic on social media as there was 12 months ago when Adrian would have come into the team, the Spaniard having made several errors although he has also had good moments in a Liverpool shirt.
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For his age and inexperience at first-team level, though, Kelleher is a confident and composed presence in goal and has proven he can be a capable back-up for the years to come.
Liverpool will of course still presumably have to dip into the transfer market if former West Ham first-choice Adrian departs at the end of the season as is likely.
Marcelo Pitaluga was signed for a fee rising to £1.8million back in September but he is only 18 himself and will need more years at under-23s level before he gets a shot in the senior side.
It is a similar story with Liam Hughes, signed from Celtic in the January transfer window, and the likes of Viteszlav Jaros and Jakub Ojrzynski in the academy set-up.
Kamil Grabara and Loris Karius are both on loan at AGF in Denmark and Union Berlin in Germany respectively but the latter is expected to depart permanently or go out on loan again.
Polish keeper Grabara, 22, is an interesting prospect and made 28 Championship appearances at Huddersfield last season but given he has now returned to the Danish Superliga, it’s unclear whether he has a future at Liverpool.
Instead, Jurgen Klopp might go out and recruit a veteran shot-stopper in the mould of Andy Lonergan, now at West Brom, who never even played a match in his single season at the club but was well liked within the squad.
Kelleher’s emergence at least means there is surely no need for the German to spend any significant sum on a No 2 to Alisson, allowing money to instead be invested into other areas of the squad.
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