"He has come here because he’s an outstanding goalkeeper and, I repeat, you don’t lose your talent." Those were the words of Brendan Rodgers after another high-profile error from goalkeeper Simon Mignolet last weekend.
Tasked with replacing a player that was making too many mistakes at the end of his career in Pepe Reina, the Belgian got off to an impressive start at Anfield. Nevertheless, while his debut against Stoke will be remembered for a last minute penalty save to earn his side all three points, Mignolet was not exactly instilling confidence in the Reds' fans up to that point in the match.
The spot kick stop from Jonathan Walters gave the 25-year old the confidence he needed through September, but there has been a significant drop in form from the number 22 since then. Indeed, at the end of the second month of the new season, 6 games in, Mignolet was the best rated goalkeeper in the Premier League according to WhoScored.com (7.49), conceding just 4 goals and keeping 3 successive clean sheets at the start of the campaign.
Since the 1-0 league win over United at the beginning of September, however, of all goalkeepers to make at least 10 league appearances only Maarten Stekelenburg has kept fewer clean sheets than Mignolet's 3. He's lost the confidence that the aforementioned penalty save had given him, and it's something that his manager has noted, stating, "Players will succeed if they have a confidence and part of my job is to help deliver that confidence to them."
It's clear that Rodgers has faith in his summer signing's ability to bounce back, but there's no denying that an error-strewn run of form has led to questions regarding his ability to perform at the very top level just yet. Following an unsuccessful flap at a cross that allowed Christian Benteke to double Villa's lead last Saturday, Mignolet has now made more errors leading to goals than any other player in the league (4).
A gaffe that allowed Emanuele Giaccherini to score back at the end of September kick started a disappointing run from the Belgium international, and he hasn't really recovered since. His error for Alvaro Negredo's goal against City proved more costly in a 2-1 defeat last month, while most would argue that he should have kept out Samuel Eto'o's second in an identical scoreline the next time out at Chelsea. A terrible mistake that allowed Jonathan Walters to give Stoke hope in an 8-goal thriller at the Britannia Stadium soon followed, and there's no doubt whatsoever that his comedy of errors have been no laughing matter as far as Liverpool are concerned.
Since the beginning of October, of all goalkeeper's to appear in over half of their side's league matches (9+) Mignolet has fallen from the best rated keeper in WhoScored's ratings to the second worst (6.38); only ahead of Swansea's Gerhard Tremmel.
In terms of save success rate the Liverpool keeper has a respectable figure, with 72.3% ranking seventh in the league of all those with at least 10 appearances. He's made more saves in total than any of those ahead of him in this regard too (68), with only David Marshall and John Ruddy making more in the current campaign.
That shows that Mignolet could certainly be getting better protection from an ever changing back four at present, and the fact that Rodgers hasn't settled on a centre-back pairing in front of him - albeit due to injuries at times - probably hasn't helped. Nevertheless, 47.7% of the shots that the Reds have conceded this season have come from outside the box - only four sides have conceded a higher percentage of the total shots against them from distance this season - so the chances that opponents are having against Liverpool aren't of the highest quality.
Mignolet must improve between now and the end of the season; it may sound harsh but he would struggle to do much worse. At 25 he's still very young for a player in the spotlight that goalkeeping inevitably brings and he may well go on to be Liverpool's keeper for many years to come. If there isn't a significant mark up in his current form, however, Rodgers may be forced into looking for a more experienced keeper in the short term, with Brad Jones the only other senior shot stopper at the club.
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