Signing Simon Mignolet to Replace Pepe Reina Will Make Liverpool a Better Team

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Signing Simon Mignolet to Replace Pepe Reina Will Make Liverpool a Better Team
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Pointing his way to a dream move to Anfield this summer, but will Simon Mignolet prove an able replacement for Reina?

Liverpool appear to be on the verge of signing Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and the highly rated Belgium international will prove himself to be an even better shot-stopper than current Reds No. 1 Jose Manuel Reina.

According to The Guardian's Dominic Fifield, the Reds have already had an initial offer of £6.5 million rejected by the Northeast giants for their coveted keeper, who is valued closer to the £10m mark.

However, the two clubs are still expected to come to some sort of agreement imminently over the transfer of the 25-year-old keeper, whose current contract at the Stadium of Light runs until the summer of 2015.

And Mignolet’s impending switch to Merseyside immediately raises a whole host of questions regarding the Reds future of long-serving custodian Reina, who himself has been the subject of intense speculation of late.

The Daily Mail's Graeme Yorke has linked the Spain international with a move back to former club FC Barcelona this summer to replace Victor Valdes at Camp Nou.

At least, that was until his compatriot recently performed a dramatic U-turn and announced that he now intended to remain in Catalonia for one more season after all. This follows a statement earlier this year that he would be leaving Barca this summer to try out a new challenge in his career.

So where that leaves Reina is anyone’s guess with the 30-year-old, who himself has a contract with Liverpool until June 30, 2016.

"It’s quite clear - I am under contract with Liverpool and right now, there are not going to be any changes,” he recently confirmed to Spanish newspaper AS (h/t the Daily Express).

Could Liverpool head coach Brendan Rodgers really be planning on letting these two world-class keepers battle it out for the No. 1 spot at Anfield next season in a winner-takes-all-contest?

If so, would the duo actually be happy about that situation—especially the Reds’ current first choice and Liverpool legend approaching almost 400 games for the club since arriving from La Liga outfit Villarreal for just £6m in the summer of 2005?

And more importantly, in actual fact, which of the two shot-stoppers would emerge on top in the fight to start next season between the sticks for the Reds?

Well, that last question is a tricky one, as for so many years the Spaniard was regarded as the most reliable and consistent goalkeeper operating in the Premier League alongside Chelsea's Petr Cech.

That mantle, though, began to slip in recent years, coinciding with the departure of previous manager Rafa Benitez in the summer of 2010 and his replacement by Roy Hodgson. Hodgson brought his own goalkeeping coach, Mike Kelly, with him to Anfield, a move that ultimately badly affected Reina’s form between the sticks for a period of time.

And in spite of his confidence slowly returning to previous levels under first Kenny Dalglish and then Rodgers, there is no doubt about it: Reina’s game has most definitely lost some of its edge in recent times.

In stark contrast, however, Mignolet has been the talk of the Premier League ever since ex-Sunderland boss Steve Bruce brought the Belgian to Wearside from Sint-Truiden for just £2m in June 2010.

The keeper has since made more than 100 appearances for the Black Cats.

But it was his eye-catching displays in goal for Sunderland in the last campaign in particular that really brought Mignolet to people’s attention. Without his performances, the Northeast side may very well have been playing Championship football next season.

The tough part now for Rodgers and Liverpool goalkeeping coach John Achterberg is that each man has certain strengths to his game that the other does not, as the statistics below from last season clearly demonstrate.

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For example, Reina is known for being one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League when it comes to both his distribution skills with the ball at his feet—now such a vital component in being a top-class keeper—and when faced with key one-on-one situations with an opposing player, which the stats bear out.

In comparison, last season Mignolet came out on top against the Spaniard in terms of his overall save percentage, the stops he made in the penalty box, including from vital “clear-cut” chances and, interestingly, in his ability to deal with crosses.

So that is the potentially tough decision awaiting Rodgers and his coaching staff were both Mignolet to come on board and Reina to also remain at the club this summer.

However, at five years his junior and with more consistent form behind him of late, the Sunderland shot-stopper appears the better bet to take the Reds forward next season.

 

2012/13 GOALKEEPING STATS

REINA

 

MIGNOLET

2.2

Games per clean sheet

3.5

1.1

Goals conceded per game

1.4

38

Minutes per save

23

68%

Save %

73%

55%

Saves in box %

68%

28%

Clear chance save %

43%

31

High cross catches

47

10

Missed crosses

3

91%

Ground 50/50 win

73%

86%

Aerial 50/50 win

75%

 

2012/13 DISTRIBUTION STATS

REINA

 

MIGNOLET

692

Open Play Passes (OPP)

746

490

Accurate OPP

309

71%

OPP Completion

41%

0.25

Passes per minute

0.22

61%

OPP Forwards %

92%

24%

OPP Left %

3%

15%

OPP Right %

 5%

All statistics courtesy of EPLindex.com.

 

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