Kelleher Is A Keeper

Last night was a breath of fresh air for Liverpool after a tough few weeks. The manager continues to do battle with television production companies over his dislike of Liverpool being asked to play the 12.30pm kick-offs, with people working for those companies seemingly wilfully misunderstanding the point he’s trying to make. Jürgen Klopp doesn’t want the kick-off time abolished, he’s simply asking if clubs that play in the Champions League on Wednesday night might be excluded from being selected for them. It’s not rocket science, nor is what he’s asking totally outrageous. In fact, it’s noteworthy that both Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, managers of two of our fiercest rivals, have also said virtually the same thing. It’s odd that the press have only chosen to go to war with the German over it, rather than either of the other two media darlings.

Because of the debate between the manager and the media, it’s felt like forever since we’ve seen him produce one of his big goofy grins. His team selection against Atalanta last week seemed to be neither strong nor weak, coming somewhere in the middle with a performance that reflected that. After the demoralising draw with Brighton & Hove Albion at the weekend, Klopp must have been unsure of what team to select this time around. He got it exactly right, though, with the youngsters he turned to doing him proud. Curtis Jones seems to learn from his experience every time he plays, putting in a virtual Man Of The Match performance against Ajax last night. Neco Williams, meanwhile, has struggled at times but played probably his best game for us. It was unquestionably the man between the sticks that was the standout from the game, even if I can’t pronounce his name.

He’s Not Adrian

I’m one of the people that thinks that Adrian is a much better goalkeeper than he’s given credit for. Don’t misunderstand me, the drop off between him and Alisson Becker is huge. Yet we’ve all come to dislike him based on the simple fact that we’ve seen far too much of him. Considering he’s a goalkeeper, Alisson doesn’t half seem to pick up an awful lot of injuries. As a result, Adrian has had to play far more than a normal number two would have any right to expect. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the old saying goes, so the Spanish shot-stopper has seen Liverpool fans turn against him largely because we’ve seen so much of him. He’s made mistakes during that time, of course, but only really the sort of errors that one should expect from a second-choice goalkeeper. He’s not our number one, but we’ve seen him as often as one and that’s a problem.

Caoimhín Kelleher is only twenty-two, so we’ll see him make mistakes the more that he plays for Liverpool. If he is now the de facto number two for the Reds, that’s likely to be quite a lot. He’s given grace because he’s young and I very much hope that that continues the more we see of him. Yet the best attribute he has at this moment in time is that he’s not Adrian. The Spaniard has done plenty of good during his time at Anfield, being a solid part of the squad that won the title last season. There are a lot of reasons to be grateful for what he’s brought, but it also feels like the right time for him to take a backseat. Kelleher’s performance against Ajax was solid enough to mean that most Liverpool supporters would rather see him between the sticks against Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend than the older, more experienced man and that tells a story all of its own.

It’s All About The Distribution

In the wake of last night’s win over Ajax, Jürgen Klopp said that Adrian has done plenty of good for Liverpool but that Caoimhin Kelleher offered ‘the natural football-playing ability’ that was vital to the way that the Reds play. Adrian is a decent shot-stopper, but his distribution is always found wanting. Alisson might occasional hit something wayward, but generally speaking he’s a good passer of the ball. Kelleher can stop shots, yes, but his passing was the thing I was most impressed with during his Champions League debut. He is good with both feet, having played as a midfielder and a striker up until the age of fourteen. This is perhaps as close as we’ll get to that idea of using an outfield player in goal, with the Irishman happy to play football as well as keep goal. His quick thinking and solid passing got us on the front foot a number of times last night.

To be honest, it’s what the Reds have been lacking from a goalkeeping point of view. When the debate about Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius raged, I was adamant that the German was the better choice because he suited our style of play under Jürgen Klopp more than the Belgian. They were both average goalkeepers, but the former Mainz 05 man allowed us to play in a way that suited the team. The same is now true in the forthcoming debate between Kelleher and Adrian; the youngster fits the style of play much better than the Spaniard, being able to pass the ball and be more proactive off his line. As a result, I’d prefer to see the lad from Cork between the sticks whenever Alisson isn’t fit enough to make the starting eleven. That being said, my main hope is that the Brazilian’s fitness issues sort themselves out and it’s him we see in goal most often this season.

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