Alisson Becker is a world-class goalkeeper- arguably the best in the world, too- nobody can deny that. But, as the Brazilian’s injury woes continued to pile up, so did Liverpool’s goalkeeping troubles with only Adrian and Caoimhin Kelleher to deputise.
It’s an incredible asset to have one of the best shot-stoppers in the world, but, this fact is soon voided if that goalkeeper is consistently unavailable. This created a problem for Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, who seemingly had just second-choice Adrian to turn to- perhaps Spain’s best version of Loris Karius.
So, you can understand the anxiety when the team news appears on social media without Alisson in between the sticks, and with Adrian’s name appearing instead. The former West Ham man has proven his incapabilities on numerous occasions and often falls under the label of unreliable.
Yet, here Jurgen Klopp was- seemingly forced to rely on that unreliable figure to guide an injury-plagued team through the most congested set of fixtures. Before, the shield of Virgil van Dijk provided plenty of cover to deflect any incoming dangers.
As the news broke of the Dutchman’s extended absence, however, Liverpool’s anxieties re-emerged once more with Adrian set to play without the impenetrable shield.
But in the face of an injury crisis, it is so often the world-class talents who unexpectedly emerge to take to the spotlight with ease. Trent Alexander-Arnold did it in the absence of Nathanial Clyne. Joe Gomez did the same in Joel Matip’s absence.
Now, in the most unexpected of twists, Caoimhin Kelleher is doing the same in Alisson Becker’s absence to go from the forgotten man to the solution of a growing Liverpool anxiety.
Caoimhin Kelleher: Unexpectedly Stepping up in the Absence of Alisson
Liverpool Academy Flourishing Once More
Of course, Kelleher isn’t the only academy graduate to flourish in recent times. The likes of Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams and Neco Williams have all stepped into the first-team frame to quietly become key figures amid an injury crisis.
The fact is, with the injuries mounting, the academy has stepped up to produce when needed most. Whilst many would have assumed the Liverpool production line had come to a crashing halt, it was quietly producing talent for the future who were just waiting for an opportunity.
The growing injury list may not be seen as a blessing in disguise at the time of writing, but, in three years, it will be seen as a crucial phase in the development of the Reds’ future.
Without the aforementioned injuries, when would that key opportunity have presented itself for the likes of Williams and Kelleher? The FA Cup? Perhaps for one game, before what is becoming a yearly tradition of an early exit. The League Cup? Again, an early departure is becoming yearly.
So, in reality, without the injuries, the production line would have remained slowed and lethargic; the chance to take centre stage would have failed to arrive for Kelleher and co.
When presented with the opportunity to impress, however, Kelleher, especially, has taken full grasp of it.
Kelleher the New Number Two
The idea of the Irishman stepping into the spotlight at Liverpool had never crossed the minds of many. Crucially, however, it did cross the mind of Jurgen Klopp.
Since this idea arrived, too, it has been implemented with the greatest of success. Kelleher has kept two clean sheets in three games, remained unbeaten, and conceded just the one goal- coming from the spot.
And, though his mistake against Midtjylland showed improvement is still there to be had, the academy graduate has often been a calming presence in a makeshift Liverpool backline- producing crucial saves in all three of his appearances.
You can almost sense the nerves around Anfield when Adrian is the one to deputise for Alisson. That anxiety is now eased, however, with the introduction of Kelleher.
He ticks the box in the shot-stopping department- as proven against Ajax and Wolverhampton Wanderers– as well the one for possessing that crucial footballing ability on the ball.
Adrian’s distribution has been the talking point on one too many occasions for all the wrong reasons. The Spaniard’s failure to distribute efficiently was, in truth, the cause for the Reds’ Champions League exit against Atletico Madrid last season as his attempted pass found the feet of the away side who took full advantage.
Kelleher could have suffered with the same problem. Instead, he has comfortably asserted himself on the ball with Jurgen Klopp admitting just as much, saying: “He is really calm on the ball. His personality is very calm. He is a special talent. Good to have him.”
If the clean sheets and his manager’s praise didn’t produce enough evidence, too, the stats only further accredit the keeper’s ability. In the three games he has played, Kelleher has saved 12 of the 14 shots he has faced, amassing a save percentage of 85.7%.
From the academy to the spotlight, Kelleher has won the trust of both his teammates and, perhaps more crucially, the fans to take Adrian’s position of Alisson’s deputy with ease.
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