Alisson Becker might have enjoyed an award-winning debut season as a Liverpool player, but the Brazilian is capable of becoming an even better goalkeeper – according to John Achterberg.
Following his transfer from AS Roma last July, the 26-year-old has posted a remarkable maiden campaign with the Reds so far, clinching the Premier League’s Golden Glove after achieving 21 clean sheets in the top flight, and is now preparing for the Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur.
Nevertheless, the club’s first-team goalkeeping coach – Achterberg – is convinced Alisson still has the potential to improve even further.
“When you come new into the Premier League, you always need time to settle in, but he picked it up quickly,” he told Liverpoolfc.com in Marbella.
“There were a couple of areas where he needed to adapt, but everything else was automatic. We worked in training on the things that could happen in terms of aggression, players trying to block and things like that, so I think he was well prepared.
“If you have a season like he’s just had – and we still have one game to go – it’ll be hard to beat. 21 league clean sheets! He had a great season and his level was probably one of the best in the world, so we cannot complain.
“In the Champions League, he made some massive saves for us – the Napoli save for us to get qualification for the next stage – and then in the Barca game, you cannot make any errors and he made some match-winning saves to get us the clean sheet we needed.
“Hopefully next year we can improve even further; there are always small things we can be better on. We’ve spoken to Ali about them and hopefully he can improve even further for next season. Our aim is to do it again.”
Alisson was a key component in Liverpool recording the Premier League’s meanest defence in 2018-19, with just 22 goals conceded in 38 outings, leading to his claiming of the Golden Glove.
And while Achterberg – like Jürgen Klopp – is keen to emphasise defending is a team effort, he notes the positive impact the ‘keeper has had on the players around him.
“He is really calm under pressure and makes good decisions,” he continued. “The calmness he gives to the team, the decision-making, that is vital for any goalkeeper.
“He is always able to make a match-winning save and make the team steady in front of him, knowing if anything goes wrong he will be there. You have to be in every moment 100 per cent focused and make the right decisions – that’s what he has been doing consistently for most of the season. That’s the level he produced – and now we need to try to make that even better.”
Alisson’s arrival and subsequent form has meant Simon Mignolet has spent most of the season serving as Liverpool’s No.2 goalkeeper.
However, the Belgian’s attitude and professionalism deserves huge credit, Achterberg insists.
He said: “Simon has been for a long period a No.1 goalkeeper, so it’s not an easy situation for him. You always want to play; you always have to find the motivation and drive to keep going and wait for the moment you’re needed. He has been unbelievable in that way.
“He has been training day in, day out to the highest level, in the gym doing everything perfectly – the perfect lifestyle and perfect professional. He has given a good example to all the young ‘keepers at the club and it’s really important he is part of the team as well. Si has a good level, of course, and I can be only positive about him.”
First day in Marbella ☀️⚽️💪🏻 #YNWA https://t.co/vRgppW90CR— SMignolet (Simon Mignolet) 21st May 19:28
Liverpool’s goalkeeping coaching set-up was bolstered by the arrival of Jack Robinson from the FA back in September – and Achterberg believes his addition has proven beneficial in shaping not only the senior custodians within the squad, but also those coming through the ranks.
“We brought Jack in from the FA to assist me, he can bring his own ideas and then we discuss everything,” he explained. “He has been a big help since he came in.
“He can sometimes work on more individualised programmes with the young goalkeepers, so he’s a big help to them as well.
“It is the perfect team at the moment in the way it works. The young boys, like Caoimhin Kelleher and Kamil Grabara, are also greedy to try and make the next step. They’re showing a very top level and are already in the first-team training.
“That is what we try to do and create with the boss, all of the coaches and the way of working.”