Caoimhin Kelleher's big chance for Liverpool is HERE… the Irish No 2 is a shootout hero for the Reds but has never had a run of games and he's got big shoes to fill in Alisson's absence
EuropaLeague

Caoimhin Kelleher's big chance for Liverpool is HERE… the Irish No 2 is a shootout hero for the Reds but has never had a run of games and he's got big shoes to fill in Alisson's absence

Dec 7, 2023

Caoimhin Kelleher is already part of Liverpool folklore, but his long-held dream is more humble than that. He just wants to play. 

There must be few Premier League custodians with greater patience or humility. Clearly one of the division’s best back-up goalkeepers, many think he could easily be a No 1 elsewhere.

But Kelleher has waited in the wings behind Alisson, that immovable giant, uncomplaining and sincere. Liverpool’s deputy goalkeeper has managed a grand total of 26 appearances in the last six seasons, placing him below names such as Brad Jones, Mario Balotelli, and Rickie Lambert in the pantheon of Anfield greats.

Now is his chance to strive for something different. Alisson is likely sidelined for a couple of weeks after injuring his hamstring against Manchester City, leaving the door open for Kelleher. A run in the first team is on the cards at long last. 

With Liverpool playing five times in the next fortnight, he is set for a feast of action. This is his real test. 

Caoimhin Kelleher is set for at least five games in the starting 11 after Alisson's injury

Caoimhin Kelleher is set for at least five games in the starting 11 after Alisson’s injury

The 25-year-old has made himself a penalty shootout hero with a string of saves and even a goal against Chelsea to win the EFL Cup

The 25-year-old has made himself a penalty shootout hero with a string of saves and even a goal against Chelsea to win the EFL Cup

However, the task of replacing Alisson is one of the hardest in world football and Kelleher has only started back-to-back games once for Liverpool

However, the task of replacing Alisson is one of the hardest in world football and Kelleher has only started back-to-back games once for Liverpool 

The mammoth task of replacing Alisson 

Alisson’s stats since 2018/19 prove just how difficult he will be to replace, as per Opta. 

  • Most goals prevented among any Premier League goalkeeper – 23.85 
  • Most successful passes among any Premier League goalkeeper – 4,818
  • Most sweepings – 131
  • Second-best save percentage – 73.91 per cent
  • Second-most clean sheets – 82

Kelleher has only ever played back-to-back games for the Reds once, when he started two in a row in December 2020. Alisson has not missed a Premier League game through injury since then. 

Whether it is gunning for more game time at Liverpool or winning the confidence of another Premier League club, this major factor has held him back. 

Nobody has seen Kelleher withstand the week-to-week cut-and-thrust of elite football, slogging through 50-game seasons.

It is one thing coming in fresh to play a cup game – and he has done that excellently – but it is entirely another to deal with the mental and physical demand of the No 1 shirt. 

There’s little doubt at Liverpool that he is ready for the challenge. 

‘He deserves his opportunity to get a few more games and hopefully show his full potential,’ Jurgen Klopp said. 

How true. Indeed, Klopp likes Kelleher so much that he said only an ‘extraordinary offer’ would prise him away when there was interest in the summer. But the task of filling Alisson’s gloves is massive.

Some stats for you, courtesy of Opta. Since 2018/19, no Premier League goalkeeper has prevented more goals than Alisson’s 23.85. No goalkeeper has completed more passes. No goalkeeper has completed more sweepings, with Alisson quick off his line. 

Shall we continue? Only David Raya boasts a better save percentage than Alisson’s 73.91 per cent since 2018/19, and nobody has better this season. Only Ederson has kept more than his 82 clean sheets. 

It’s a tall order, living up to that. But has revealed himself to be exceptional in multiple aspects. 

Kelleher has deputised for Alisson in the Europa League but was shaky against Toulouse

Kelleher has deputised for Alisson in the Europa League but was shaky against Toulouse 

Jurgen Klopp believes that his second-choice goalkeeper deserves his opportunity to shine

Jurgen Klopp believes that his second-choice goalkeeper deserves his opportunity to shine

Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures 

LASK (h) – November 30 (Europa League)

Fulham (h) – December 3 (Premier League)

Sheffield United (a) – December 6 (Premier League)

Crystal Palace (a) – December 9 (Premier League)

Union Saint-Gilloise (h) – December 14 (Europa League)

Manchester United (h) – December 17 (Alisson expected back) (Premier League)

West Ham (h) – December 20 (EFL Cup)

Arsenal (h) – December 23 (Premier League)

Burnley (a) – December 26 (Premier League) 

 

The 25-year-old holds the Liverpool record for most penalty shootout wins (four) and most penalty saves (six). 

His 25 per cent save percentage from penalties on target is far above the 16 per cent average among his contemporaries.  

Within months of joining the first team, he overtook Adrian as second choice after keeping clean sheets in the first third games he played, winning praise for his exceptional performances. 

His most memorable match in a Liverpool shirt came in the 2022 EFL Cup final, when he played against Chelsea. After a 0-0 draw, the game went to penalties. 

It wasn’t his finest hour between the sticks, as he conceded ten spot-kicks that day, but it was his most glorious hour in a Liverpool shirt overall. Kelleher scored his penalty before his opposite number Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was brought on just for the shootout, blazed the ball over the crossbar. 11-10 to Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s first domestic cup. Pandemonium. 

Last season he really enhanced his reputation as a penalty specialist when he saved three in a shoot-out against Derby County, again in the EFL Cup. That competition is his home, his haven, but the Irishman longs for more. 

He has also proven himself adept in other aspects, as he is a fine acrobat from open play.

His save percentage stats in the EFL Cup over the last three seasons – 82.4 per cent, 72.7 per cent, and 71.4 per cent this season – are a good benchmark for what he can do. 

Kelleher has been a devoted understudy to Alisson for many years, never complaining about his position behind one of the world's best

Kelleher has been a devoted understudy to Alisson for many years, never complaining about his position behind one of the world’s best 

He has developed a reputaiton for making acrobatic saves and is fearless facing penalties

He has developed a reputaiton for making acrobatic saves and is fearless facing penalties

While you would expect the standard of opposition to generally be lower in the EFL Cup, and Liverpool to therefore give away less high-quality chances, those numbers stack up well when only eight goalkeeepers in the Premier League can boast better numbers. 

Alisson is one of those, whose 78.8 per cent places him at the top of the tree – alongside Andre Onana, oddly enough.  

Kelleher’s range of distribution is one part of his game where he lags behind his Brazilian superior. 

As goalkeeping analyst John Harrison told The Athletic: ‘He is confident receiving the ball under pressure and playing short quickly and accurately, which is a big asset for a possession-dominant team who want to build up from deep.

‘His long passing, particularly out wide to his full-backs and wingers, could potentially be improved; he hasn’t shown quite the range or accuracy of some of the top distributors in the Premier League.’

According to Opta, only Jason Steele and Ederson have a higher passing accuracy among Premier League goalkeepers than Alisson since 2018/19, whereas it is sometimes seen as a weakness of Kelleher’s. 

There was talk of him leaving in the summer but Klopp said only an 'extraordinary offer' would prise him away

There was talk of him leaving in the summer but Klopp said only an ‘extraordinary offer’ would prise him away 

In the 3-2 defeat to Toulouse, he tossed away possession in the box and gifted Gabriel Suazo an opportunity, though Trent Alexander-Arnold materialised on the goal-line to spare his blushes. 

He also conceded at his near post for Toulouse’s second goal, proving that he isn’t the finished product. 

All the same, Kelleher’s long-awaited moment in the spotlight is much deserved. Perhaps it’s written in the stars. Growing up, the Cork lad was a Reds fan and was an ice-cold striker for his youth team, Ringmahon Rangers. 

Since then, he’s moved backwards in terms of position. But every projection for his career points upwards. It’s only a matter of when… and where. 

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *