Does Simon Mignolet Deserve To Be Liverpool’s Number One?

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Simon Mignolet is often a forlorn figure in the Liverpool team. He gets blamed by many fans when Liverpool lose a game, especially if the goal is conceded as a result of a set piece.

I will admit I am not his biggest fan. I have written many an article about him, often criticising him for his indecision, the lack of confidence he gives those in front of him, and his failure to do the simple things right.

When Mignolet was brought to Liverpool in the summer of 2013 then manager Brendan Rodgers claimed that Liverpool had bought “one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League

In his last season playing for Sunderland Mignolet made 3.26 saves per game and made 2.46 saves per goal conceded. While those stats look impressive Sunderland conceded 54 goals that season conceding two or more goals on 16 occasions.

The ‘error prone’ Mignolet was only at fault for two of Sunderland’s 54 goals conceded. This added to the hype around the Belgian goalkeeper.

He made his Liverpool debut against Stoke at the start of 2013/2014 — a game which will always be remembered for his last minute penalty save from Jonathan Walters which helped his side win 1-0.

That season he kept 10 clean sheets as Liverpool pushed for the Premier League title for the first time since they finished second in the league under Rafa Benitez in the 2008/2009 season.

His saves per goals conceded and his saves per goals dropped dramatically as Liverpool conceded 50 with Mignolet being at fault for six.

These errors were largely ignored, though, as all the talk among fans was of the goals being scored by both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

During his time at Liverpool Mignolet has not had any real competition for the number one spot.

Brad Jones was simply not good enough to play for Liverpool, and Danny Ward was too young and inexperienced to realistically challenge the Belgian for his starting position in the team.

This, in my opinion, allowed Mignolet become too comfortable and allowed him to play within himself.

All that changed last season when Jürgen Klopp signed young German goalkeeper Loris Karius.

Karius came to Liverpool with high expectations, not only from the manager who declared that he was brought in to be Liverpool’s new number one, but also from fans.

The season before he signed for Liverpool, Karius finished second behind Manuel Neuer as the Bundisliga’s best goalkeeper.

Karius’s career at Liverpool has been a bit of a stop start affair. After injuring his hand in Liverpool’s pre season tour of the America he eventually made his Premier League debut on the 24th September in a 5-1 win over Hull City.

He went on to play in the next 10 matches for the Reds before being dropped in favour of Mignolet on the 14th December.

In those 10 games, Karius made 10 saves, had 3 clean sheets, conceded 12 goals of which two were mistakes by the young German goalkeeper. I personally think this was a bit harsh on him.

While it would be unfair to compare Karius’s 10 games last season to Mignolet’s 28 games in the Premier League, you only have to look at his stats while playing for FSV Mainz 05.

That season he kept 9 clean sheets, made 2.53 saves per game and 2.10 saves per goal. He on average conceded 1.24 goals per game. Mainz that season conceded 42 goals and conceded two or more goals on 12 times that season.

In the same season Mignolet kept 11 clean sheets, made on average 1.53 saves per game, made 1.27 saves per goal and conceded 1.24 goals per game.

That season like Karius, Mignolet conceded 42 goals and conceded 2 or more goals on 13 occasions; one more than Karius. Both goalkeepers conceded the same amount of goals per game that season.

Last season, for me, Mignolet had his best season to date for Liverpool.

As Liverpool pushed for the Champions League all the focus was on the exploits of the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino in front of goal, but the saves from Mignolet towards the end of the season were just as important.

It seemed that fans were beginning to soften in their stance towards Mignolet and these positive vibes seemed to help his confidence.

Gone were the silly mistakes that had plagued his Liverpool career to date. He was finally doing the simple things right and his confidence instilled a new confidence in both Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip.

In Liverpool’s last 4 games they conceded no goal. For me this had as much to do with the goalkeepr as it did with Liverpool’s attacking players.

Even Klopp was getting in on the Mignolet love-in, describing his last minute save against Watford as one of the best he had ever seen.

Going in to pre season Mignolet had cemented his place as Liverpool’s undisputed number one for the fourth straight season.

Klopp, though, had other ideas when he announced that the number one spot was up for grabs.

As a player this must have been the last thing Mignolet wanted to hear. While some will say it was Klopp’s way of maybe throwing down the gauntlet for him to prove he is in fact Liverpool’s number one, for me I would see it as Klopp not trusting him.

With Ward back at the club Liverpool have three excellent goalkeepers all vying for the number one spot.

While Karius and Ward could be described as Klopp type goalkeepers, Mignolet has the ability to help the team win ugly which was what Liverpool did towards the end of last season.

If Liverpool can secure the services of a new centre back to replace Lovren I feel this will help Mignolet in goal.

Having two competent centre backs in front of him will help him no ends. Instead of having to worry about a mistake from one of the defenders in front of him he will be able to do what he does best, and that’s stop shots.

While I am not one of his biggest fans, I think his performances at the tail end of last season should at least warrant him starting against Watford.

He knows that any more mistakes, and his career is all but over at Liverpool, and hopefully this will finally push him to develop into a Liverpool goalkeeper who will be remembered for his great saves instead of his constant errors.


Featured image by Eddie Janssens from Brussels, Belgium. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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