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Can Robin Olsen replace Alisson at AS Roma?

Saturday 28th July 2018

The ensuing conundrum after auctioning your best player is finding a suitable replacement. AS Roma profited immensely from Alisson Becker’s record-breaking move to Liverpool. The question is can successor Robin Olsen be half as effective as the Brazilian? 

Roma's hectic summer continues, but other than Malcolm's last-minute brain-twist to move to Barcelona, the Giallorossi have been successful in wooing all targets. While balancing the books, they’ve made shrewd additions. That's why they hired Monchi.

Alisson and Radja Nainggolan led the high-profile exits. The pair left for Liverpool and Milan respectively, their sales generating £90 million. Olsen is the club's 13th arrival, joining Javier Pastore, Justin Kluivert, Gregoire Defrel and Davide Santon. Considering the pressure he will face, 13 may prove an unlucky number.

Olsen's case is delicate. He must replace Alisson Becker. The Brazilian was WhoScored's top European goalkeeper in 2017/18. It’s easy to see why. Alisson made more saves in Europe's top five leagues than all but one keeper, Verona's ridiculously overworked Nicolas, and posted the third-best save percentage, at 79.26. 

Alisson was Il Lupi's last line of defence and their first in attack. His distribution, anticipation and passing range triggered Eusebio de Francesco's offence. Only Gianluigi Donnarumma racked up more successful passes, outdoing his rival 1,135 to 1,125.  

The numbers make the Brazilian appear irreplaceable. Olsen must ignore them and focus on doing a decent job. He isn’t the most flamboyant name you'd want at your club. Neither will he instil terror in opponents' hearts.  Regardless, the 28-year-old has the potential to match Alisson's success, even though he is well behind at the moment.

Quick, brave, decisive, Olsen is good at narrowing down angles in 1v1 situations. He has the courage to sacrifice his body to thwart onrushing opponents. Not the biggest, the Swede makes himself large, using his legs to block close-range shots. He is adept at shutting off space.

Before the World Cup, Olsen's expertise was unknown outside Scandinavia. Signed to the youth team by hometown club Malmo in 1997, he made his senior debut with IF Bunkeflo in 2007. He didn't taste success until he joined Copenhagen in 2016 after several loan deals and a stint with PAOK Athens in Greece. Then he introduced himself to the world at Russia 2018.

His World Cup exploits came immediately after recovering from a fractured collarbone suffered mid-season with Copenhagen. The 28-year-old garnered three clean sheets at the tournament, shutting out South Korea, Mexico and Switzerland. He was beaten just twice. 

Olsen’s fine performance was supported by Janne Andersson's defensive tactics. The Blue-Yellow played deep, making it difficult for rivals to penetrate. The keeper rarely needed to bail his team out. When the occasion arose, however, he was equal to it.

At Roma, the 28-year-old must work on his distribution, ball-playing and cleaning up his errors. Roma faithful aren’t the most patient but that is the responsibility he has accepted. He'll have to up his game to reach Alisson’s level. 

Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 


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