Simon Mignolet Plays Major Role in Liverpool's Resurgence, but Doubts Remain

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Simon Mignolet Plays Major Role in Liverpool's Resurgence, but Doubts Remain
AP

Liverpool survived another test of their character and nerve to pick up all three points in a 3-2 victory over Norwich City at Carrow Road on Sunday.

The win gave Brendan Rodgers' side their 11th consecutive victory, but it wasn't without some reasons for concern after another blistering opening paved the way for some defensive lapses and moments of nervousness.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

Not least for the opening goal, which saw Simon Mignolet fail to deal with Steven Whittaker's high cross from the right. The Belgian goalkeeper's attempted punch failed to clear the ball and it instead landed at the feet of Gary Hooper to halve the then-two-goal lead.

Robert Snodgrass' goal for the second Norwich goal arrived from a cross on the opposite side, with Mignolet on that occasion opting to stay on his line rather than attempt to collect or clear.

The 25-year-old has had an indifferent opening season at Anfield, making crucial saves on more one than one occasion but also making some high-profile mistakes—most often involving crosses. Another error from a cross earlier in the season led to an Aston Villa goal at Anfield.

However, for the errors made, Mignolet also makes up for them with some superb saves. Minutes after Norwich made it 3-2, he saved Ricky van Wolfswinkel's header from Nathan Redmond's cross.

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith writes in the Telegraph of Mignolet:

The other part of his game stands up very well. Blessed with very sharp reactions and good agility, Mignolet has pulled off many fine saves during the course of this season, including a penalty stop on the opening day against Stoke.

 

Criticism

Last week former Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar harshly criticised Mignolet, as per the Daily Mail.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The Zimbabwean shot-stopper, who won six league titles at Liverpool, claimed Mignolet is the weak link in Rodgers' title-challenging side:

Mignolet is a good shot-stopper, but by no means the best all-round keeper. A good keeper should be easy on his feet, play out from the back and command himself in the penalty box.

Harsh, especially the timing of his comments, but perhaps with reason.

 

Future

"The keeper coach has to work him harder and he can improve a lot, of course he can," says Grobbelaar.

It's important to remember that Mignolet is in his first season at a high-profile club and is just 25 years old—young for a 'keeper. He is the same age Grobbelaar was when he arrived at Anfield, and very rarely are 'keepers the finished product at such an age. More often than not, a 'keeper hits their prime nearer 30.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Grobbelaar mentions Liverpool's goalkeeper coach in his comments, former Tranmere Rovers player John Achterberg, who has been in his role at Liverpool since 2011 after initially being promoted to the position temporarily following Roy Hodgson's departure.

Achterburg's appointment, and Xavi Valero's departure when Rafa Benitez left the club the previous summer, coincided with a dip in form for Pepe Reina. Is the Dutch coach of the required standard?

Furthermore, is Mignolet being pushed enough by those around him, with Brad Jones as his understudy? Last summer, Rodgers was heavily linked with a move for experienced 'keeper Shay Given as back-up to Mignolet, per the Guardian. Such a signing would have added some depth to the position and given Mignolet somebody to learn from in training.

Mignolet has shown this season that there is enough reason to believe he can improve and go on to make the required improvements to his game. He may just need some help getting there.

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