Liverpool summer signing Alisson Becker arrived at Anfield with a then world-record price for a goalkeeper but he has already begun justifying the £65million price tag.
The Brazil international is only the third Liverpool goalkeeper in 51 years to keep clean sheets in the first three league matches of a season after Bruce Grobbelaar, Jose Reina and Simon Mignolet, who achieved the feat twice.
A late stop from substitute Pascal Gross ensured Mohamed Salah‘s 23rd-minute goal secured a 1-0 victory and a third successive win as Jurgen Klopp’s went side top of the table for the first time since November 2016.
However, it is other aspects of the Brazilian’s game which have got people talking.
Klopp has already referenced Alisson’s aptitude with the ball at his feet, but it is something which is still taking some getting used to by fans who have grown accustomed to a nervousness bordering on panic watching previous goalkeepers deal with back-passes.
But their new summer signing is as laid back as they come and regularly takes on – and beats – onrushing forwards.
In the first half he came charging out to meet a through-ball, barely connected and was fortunate to see Solomon March’s miscontrol knock it out of play, while later on he was almost caught in possession as Liverpool played it across the penalty area.
But the piece de resistance came late in the second half when Virgil van Dijk, previously Liverpool’s coolest character on the ball, left his back-pass a fraction short and Anthony Knockaert sensed his chance.
But Alisson waited until the last possible moment before chipping the ball over his opponent’s outstretched leg, bringing it under control and returning it to Van Dijk.
It brought gasps of astonishment and roars of approval but even Klopp admits it gave him a nervous moment.
“That’s not too cool for a manager. If it works then it’s cool,” Klopp said.
“I had a few centre-halves who were able to do things a centre-half should not do, like Mats Hummels (at Borussia Dortmund) constantly doing things which made no sense but he was really good in there.
“Alisson is obviously a goalkeeper who can play football, which is good. He’s confident enough to do it. He didn’t do it for showing off, he did it to sort the situation.
“He has a nice level of confidence, so he uses that. I like the save from the header more than the chip, but the chip was the right thing to do in that situation.”
Klopp has had to defend his massive outlay on a 25-year-old goalkeeper who had only one, albeit impressive, season at Roma but he has gone past that now.
“Was there criticism in England? I thought in England you got this (a pat on the back) for spending big,” Klopp said.
“I couldn’t be less interested in that by the way. We did it because we were convinced.
“We didn’t make the price, we only wanted a good player and the owners gave us the opportunity to do so.”
Klopp may find himself speaking as regularly about Alisson as he did last season about Salah, who has picked up where he left off with second goals in three matches.
Salah took his tally to 29 in as many matches at Anfield with a low finish off the inside of the far post in a rare moment of precision in an otherwise disjointed game.
Despite a second defeat of the season, Brighton manager Chris Hughton has been happy with their displays.
“We need to make sure we have the same level of performance in the games we can realistically get points from,” he said.
“If we get that level of performance throughout the season, then we’ll be fine.”
Chelsea are insistent owner Roman Abramovich is not looking to sell the club.
A report in the Sunday Times has claimed club directors acting for the Russian billionaire have brought in advisers from merchant bank Raine Group as part of a strategic review.
The newspaper also states Abramovich rejected an offer for a minority stake in the club from Silver Lake Partners, an American private equity firm.
It was reported in June that Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe had failed with a £2billion bid for Chelsea.
The club announced in May that plans to redevelop their Stamford Bridge stadium had been put on hold, which was interpreted in some quarters as Abramovich’s response to delays over the issuing of a UK investor’s visa.
According to a club source familiar with the situation, Abramovich has no plans to sell the London club and nothing has changed in that regard.
He bought Chelsea in 2003, since when the club have enjoyed the most success in their history, with five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the 2012 Champions League among their trophy wins.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery denied he had a training-ground row with Mesut Ozil in the build-up to his side’s 3-1 Premier League win over West Ham.
Ozil was not included in the matchday squad for the game at the Emirates Stadium and reports in Brazil suggested it was because of a falling out with Emery on Friday.
However the Spaniard insisted that Ozil’s absence was due to illness and that he was at the stadium on Saturday, where he saw Emery earn a first league win thanks to goals from Nacho Monreal and Danny Welbeck either side of an Issa Diop own goal.
Emery said: “Why is this information (out there). It isn’t true. I don’t know who is telling you this information.
“He sat down with me and we decided that he would not play. He left training because he was going to his home because he is sick.
“Today he was here, I told him to come in if he feels better and he feels better today and before the match he was with the team. He is bad with sickness. There is no problem with the player, speak with the doctor he can explain better.”
After opening with two defeats in games against Manchester City and Chelsea, Emery finally notched a win but this was nowhere near as clear-cut as the scoreline suggests.
They fell behind to Marko Arnautovic’s 26th-minute goal and after Monreal quickly equalised they conceded plenty of chances that West Ham counted the cost of missing.
The Gunners had barely threatened after the break until Diop put through his own net, with Welbeck finishing the job at the death.
Emery added: “We are happy with the first three points, that was the first objective. After the first two results we needed this today, it was important to show our supporters a match with three points.
“It’s clear we need to improve, we will continue working on not conceding as many chances to the opposition.
“They are a good team, a good coach, good players, they caused us problems in the defence. If we defend with more people in the moment we lose an attacking threat. We need to find the balance.”
WAIT CONTINUES FOR PELLEGRINI
While Emery got off the mark, West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini is still waiting for his first points as this was the third defeat of the season.
There were plenty of positives to take, though, not least the amount of chances they created.
“I am not very happy with the result, but I am very happy with the performance of the team,” the former Manchester City manager said.
“It is what I want from the players to come here to Arsenal’s stadium against a big team and we did well. We were unlucky to concede an own goal that put Arsenal on top.
“I am very happy because we are in the correct way and soon we will win more games than we are going to lose. We need to have points, but every game we improve a little more.”