IT is an exciting time to be a Liverpool supporter. Jürgen Klopp’s buoyant Reds are gathering momentum with each passing match; the latest 6-1 drubbing of Southampton in the Capital One Cup the most emphatic of victories. Naturally, Reds’ fans are hanging on Klopp’s every last word, lapping up his eccentricity; his rapidly improving English — laced with the occasional comic obscenity — communicating an uncomplicated yet inspirational approach to management.
Earlier this week, Klopp volunteered a surprising and categorical defence of an under-fire Simon Mignolet. Without prompting, the German went on record to say he was entirely happy with the man who remains the prime scapegoat of an intolerant Anfield crowd.
For the first time, Klopp’s backing of one of his players has been questioned, albeit with many observers suggesting he has no choice but to publicly support a player under pressure.
However, if we’re to take Klopp at his word — and talk of a new contract upping his reported £60,000-a-week salary suggests we have to take him seriously — Mignolet will remain Liverpool’s goalkeeper beyond the January transfer window; something which fills the majority of fans with utter dread.
The criticism the Belgian has received is reflected beyond social media circles and extends to an anxious Anfield crowd. The jitters and catcalls that accompany his every move bring to mind the mid 1990s travails of David James when opposition fans’ “Dodgy Keeper” chants accompanied cruel, ironic cheers from the Kop.
However, Klopp insisted this week: “We are not looking for another goalkeeper. I’ve had a lot of goalkeepers over the last few years and Simon Mignolet is one of the smartest I have ever had.”
In isolation, these words are the ultimate vote of confidence, but if they had been uttered by Klopp’s predecessor would be met with ridicule by all but a few.
If we are to assume his comments are not disingenuous, then Klopp’s opinion is at odds with the match-going support. Most would argue that Mignolet is a disaster waiting to happen, a destabilising presence to the back four and prone to indecision that undermines the whole team.
The recent debacle against Bordeaux when he was penalised for holding onto the ball for 22 seconds seemed like the final straw for fans whose patience has long run thin.
Klopp seemed to concur when he made a joke in the aftermath comparing Mignolet’s error to a journalist’s prolonged delay in asking a question. Three days later against Swansea, there were more hysterics from the crowd when the goalkeeper again dallied before releasing — as all keepers are prone to do — when protecting a narrow lead as the Reds ticked down the clock.
Is it possible to mount a worthwhile defence of a goalkeeper who has rarely convinced of his worth over two-and-a-half seasons? Is it feasible to find any sympathy with Klopp’s assertion that “since I have been here, there has been nothing to criticise, absolutely nothing”?
Let’s get the obvious criticisms out of the way. It might take a while, for those who lament “Simple Simon” have a strong case.
13 – Simon Mignolet has kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League in 2015. Rock.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 17, 2015
Mignolet can’t kick for toffee; his lofted clearances, particularly off the ground, regularly struggle to reach half-way. Despite, Klopp adding “he’s a good footballer”, Mignolet seldom looks comfortable with the ball at his feet, especially when forced on to his left foot.
The manager perhaps alludes to this when he says “we just have to learn as a team to give the ball to the keeper in the right situation”.
Interestingly, Liverpool, have recently adopted a more pragmatic approach to retaining possession when under pressure deep in the final third of the pitch, which may or not be a symptom of an obvious Mignolet flaw. With the ball in his hands, he lacks the conviction to throw or kick quickly, allowing the opposition to regroup before being faced with a swift counter attack.
Mignolet’s army of critics will also point to a perceived weakness on crosses; his inability to claim decisively on a consistent basis rooted in indecision and a lack of physicality.
When he does venture off his line, his sorties are met with the collywobbles from supporters harking back to a burlier Pepe Reina, the surety of a Ray Clemence, even the daring of the more erratic Bruce Grobbelaar.
If we’re being as sarcastic as Mignolet’s detractors, it could be argued that Klopp has seen little to criticise because Liverpool are more defensively sound, and concede fewer chances under the new regime.
However, the manager might also have in mind Mignolet’s display — and in particular a world-class stop from Clinton Njie — during the first half of Klopp’s opening game at Spurs which won the Reds a point and made a good initial impression.
6 – Simon Mignolet made a league-high six errors leading to goals last season in the Premier League. Fumble. @Tosulli #AskOpta
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 30, 2014
Even some of Mignolet’s critics will accept that he is a “good shot stopper”, admitting this is to further damn him with the faintest of praise. For all the apparent defects described above, making saves and good ones shouldn’t be dismissed altogether, as keeping the ball out of the net remains the fundamental purpose of goalkeeping.
The White Hart Lane clean sheet was preceded by two fantastic stops in the first half of the Goodison Derby; the first showing remarkable reflexes, an under-merited Mignolet virtue, to deny a point-blank Steven Naismith header.
Later, another instant reaction, unsighted from a James McCarthy shot, was an effort beyond the ordinary, even at the highest level.
I was close to the action at both Everton and Tottenham and the saves from Naismith and Njie took the breath away when viewed live. At the Emirates back in August, Arsenal fans were similarly disbelieving of diving stop to deny Olivier Giroud a certain winner in another stalemate.
Of course, over 14 league games this season these weren’t the only occasions the goalkeeper has come to the rescue in more routine fashion, but it is worth pointing it out because for those whom Mignolet has become a pariah, nothing seems to wash.
Minds have been made up, stretching back to the Belgian’s debut season when concession of over 50 league goals cost a league title and last year’s autumn meltdown, which resulted in a brief sabbatical at the expense of Brad Jones.
Mignolet was able to recover and reappeared for a while as a more decisive presence in the Spring and the manager’s comments this week could be an attempt to instil some renewed self-belief.
Despite Klopp’s public backing, it still wouldn’t surprise to see the Reds enter the market, either in January or next summer for an alternative in such a key position.
However, it could be that priorities in the shorter term lie elsewhere with Liverpool short of defensive cover for their overworked full backs. Klopp’s enhancement of several players in the squad has provided additional options up front and in midfield but in a squad looking bereft of quality under Brendan Rodgers, budget priority might still lie with adding star quality to an improving outfield cast.
In the meantime the intuitive Klopp, doubtless recognising the low opinion held by the supporters of their goalkeeper, has intervened in the debate over Mignolet’s form and suitability.
His intention might go no further than buying his goalkeeper some sympathy from the home fans but even allowing for Klopp’s standing among the regulars, it is very unlikely that doubters will become believers in the Red’s current custodian.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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I don’t know. I really don’t. Not any more.
Actually, its more that I don’t care. I really don’t. Its about the reds. the 11 of them. getting points. winning stuff.
The GK. can’t kick? so what? past caring. great shotstopper? so what? it’s his job.
get the 3 points again and again and again.
That’s it. All of it.
You cant coach reflexes. Some of his saves are worldies and that eq
You cant coach reflexes. Some of his saves are “worldies” and that equals points over the course of a season.
JK clearly believes that with an “intelligent player” his coaching can improve the other aspects of his game, and the number of clean sheets is not a stat you can easily ignore.
The crowd getting on his back seems unlikely to help him perform better in a game, so maybe the crowd should just get behind him, or at least cut him some slack for a while.
Until the LFC fans start living in the present instead of the debilitating nostalgia for what used to be, they won’t give Mignolet a break. I have to admire the obstinate insistence that the Kop knows more than the very coach they dreamed of having.
STFU AND GET BEHIND THE TEAM. Mignolet will never be a Cech or Courtois but with him and Bogdan the team has adequate cover. EPL this season, 14 games, 15 goals conceded 6th in league. The problem is that the GD is only +2 (9th) which means LFC needs to score goals, more goals and then can stop being afraid of conceding one.
Mignolet has always been a top notch shot stopper. Over the past year his command of his area has improved, his distribution not so much.
I really believed that he had until the end of the season to save his Liverpool career but it seems Klopp really likes him and sees there’s more to come from him.
Frees up money for elsewhere.
What a brilliant headline!
(was not a fan of Ming) But since Klopp said Ming is the right keeper for us, who am I to question Klopp who walks on water….he will surely turn Ming the Water into a fine wine for sure.
Klopp has already ensure:
~ collective defending
~ not to pass back to keeper at the wrong.time
~ Ming to keep it simple, instead of doing short passing to defenders…
we will be alright..
Especially when TAW’s goalkeeping expert is a 5 foot 5 inch fella from ormskirk, and everyone seems to bow down to his opinion like he’s Gordon Banks. Mental.
Mignolet is alright, he’s not Neuer and he’s not Tim Howard, he’s somewhere in between,
“His intention might go no further than buying his goalkeeper some sympathy from the home fans…”
Hmmm… Is that not a somewhat sideways way of saying he’s deliberately chosen to lie to the media and to the fans…? Especially since his comments, as you point out, were unprovoked and were not in response to a direct question.
I think we would be better off taking Jürgen Klopp at face value — he says what he means and he stands behind what he says or else he clarifies it later — just as he did when he realised his comment about feeling ‘lonely’ when fans left Anfield early had been interpreted differently than he intended it and a week later he clarified it in the match programme.
The tendency amongst our fanbase to revile individual players and scapegoat them does us no good. It severely damages confidence, which then becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. Fortunately, Jürgen understands the critical importance of confidence and self-belief. I fervently wish our fans would learn that from him.
Couldn’t agree more Ellie.. Don’t think klopp has any reason to make out he thinks a player is good enough if he isn’t. And the importance of confidence and support in sport can never be overestimated. Trust the man in charge.. Support all the players.
This is a hard one.
I think his intelligence might actually hinder him at times, thinking too much about what to do and what can go wrong. He panicks and chaos ensues the way we witnessed it. If Klopp succeeds to coach that nervousness out of him, then fine. His shotstopping is world-class, but that about the only thing up there that seems to be, at least at the moment.
They might be able to do something about the lack of aerial command but I can’t see them rescuing his distribution, too late for that I think. Shame really, since great goalkeepers can open counter-attacks with long throws or kicks.
But we have Sahko for the long balls when he’s fit, I guess.
Mignolet’s a good shot stopper but then if he wasn’t he’d probably be working in an office. I think the fact we hear ‘good shot stopper’ so often is evidence of how much we under estimate the importance of a keeper. Good shot stopping wins you points but it doesn’t win you titles. I thoroughly believe Liverpool are going on a run now. I’m a great believer in everything going in cycles. It’s hard to win it every year but I’m looking at 3 times in 7 years starting soon. Someone can take that as ridiculous optimism but I don’t think it’s based on a whim. There are plenty of factors which can back that up but it’s not for this article. The thing is though, it’s based on us having a decent keeper. Just briefly, one of the reasons for our upcoming success is because of how important a manager is (obviously). I don’t think there’s many good ones around and none better than Klopp. I don’t think there’s many good keepers around but there are many better ones than Mignolet.
If we look at the PL winners over time it’s clear the importance of a keeper. Utd starting winning the league again in 92. Then they won it every other year at least until 2003. They then went 3 years without winning it before winning it 4 out of 5 between 07 and 11. You can put their greatness down to their manager and it’d be true but it’s not the full story. One other strand was the year before they started winning it they bought Schmeichel. He was there for 8 years and won 5 titles. Utd then had 5 years looking for the right keeper. They had loads in that time before finding van der Sar in 05. In his second season they won the league for the first time in 4 years then won it every year until 2011. The year van der Sar left. It’s a clear correlation between strong keeper, win league.
Arsenal won it 88, as if we didn’t know, for the first time in nearly 20 years. They then went on to win it 4 more times until 2004. In that time they Seaman in goal. He signed in 90 and played 13 seasons. It dried up for them pretty much as soon as he left. Again, other factors contributed to both the success and the decline, a great manager for one, or the new stadium, but again, it’s a strand.
After that Chelsea and City are the others who have won it. Again, not the full story but Chelsea bought Cech in 04 and they won their first league in 05. He then stayed 11 years through a hugely successful spell. City have had Joe Hart for 9 years now.
There’s not that many keepers who’ve won leagues. All the winners have had strong keepers. Schmeichel, Seaman, van der Sar, Cech and Hart. If I’m right and we go on a run will we be able to add Mignolet in the same category as them? No. Those keepers were born with it. They made a difference straight away. Mignolet, simply doesn’t have their mentality. It has to be natural.
Klopp isn’t daft. I don’t think for one minute he thinks Mignolet is our future but it’s almost certain he’ll be our future until May. It makes sense to big him up. In the summer he’ll have 2 years on his contract. He’ll definitely be in demand. There’s plenty of clubs in the Prem who’d be interested and elsewhere too. Now’s the time to offer him a contract. You can’t do it in the summer then sell him 3 weeks later. You have to do it now and lead him into a false security or risk losing a couple of mill on him in the summer. There’s no point in spending £450m on your business and holding back on spending an extra £10m (net) on something as crucial as a keeper. Klopp’s right, he hasn’t done much wrong since he’s been here but don’t be fooled that Klopp hasn’t noticed he doesn’t do enough right.
If we’ve got any ambition, which we clearly have then Mignolet’s days are up. Loyalty, potential, still young, good shot stopper isn’t gonna save him. We need a presence like the other winners had. de Gea wins you leagues. If we’re sitting in the ground shitting ourselves whenever the opposition get a free kick or corner then what must the defence be thinking. To win the league you need 2 things. A great manager and a strong spine to your team. Good keeper, good striker, good centre half and good central midfield player. Every winner has had both. We’ve nearly got the full set now. Later Migs.
Hey Robin, you have a very interesting point regarding signing a new contract and potentially selling it in the summer. Another valid point is about having the spine of the team for any champions.
I would definitely agree with you if our manager is anyone else!!!
Klopp is different though, in my opinion. Yes, the spine is very important, don’t get me wrong. BUT, Klopp is setting up the team with 20 odd players, interestingly. Previously (not digging BR here), my natural assumption would be: Sturridge-Courtinho-Hendo-Sakho-(keeper) as our spine. Klopp has somehow totally turn my view upside down now —
Klopp’s team (without any additions now):
Strikers: Sturridge, Benteke, Firmino, and now Origi can all operate alone with as a pair
Attacking Midfield: We all know– Ibe, Courtinho, Firmino, Lallana, can all rotate and operate. Ibe, is as important as Firmino, for example. not less. and so on.
Central Midfield: Hendo, Milner, Allen, Lucas and Can (and youth team members) can rotate and play key roles in any match.
Fullbacks: thought we were short on covers; but Southampton game changed my view with Smith and Randall played reasonably well.
Keeper: yes, I am not quite convinced yet…of course, but I am sure Klopp has a plan…
So, as you all know, the team is starting to perform at a consistent level no matter who comes in now, compared to last season when we all could feel the drop in performance level when Phil was out or Hendo was not available and so on.
Hi mate. It’s a fair point and valid bearing in mind Klopp isn’t the most orthodox manager around. What you’ve said has kind of made me reassess the spine thing but I still think it’s crucial to a team. Regardless of Klopp’s philosophy or style or how much he gets from the players, a corner is still a corner and a free kick around the box is still a free kick around the box. Similarly, at the other end of the pitch the ball still has to be put in the net. You can’t win the league without a quality striker.
I think you’re right though, In the past we’ve been able to name the strong spine of the title winning sides but come the end of this season we won’t be able to name ours. It’s too interchangeable. It feels like a squad rather than a team.
The issue for me with Mignolet is, if we look at how we play under Klopp then I expect us to concede less shots on target the longer he’s here. I think we’ve seen it already. It’s because of how we defend now. We get players back quick and in numbers. Similar to how we don’t have any meaningful shots when teams park the bus at Anfield, our opponents aren’t. The threat will be reduced to set pieces for the large part, and has been even under Klopp. For me, a commanding keeper is essential and it’s not Mignolet regardless of his age. His little skinny legs aren’t intimidating in the least. Like all LFC players, I like Mignolet and hope he does well and proves us all wrong. If you wanna go empire building though, you’ve got to tread on people on the way. You’ve got to be ruthless. Mignolet’s good but he’s not good enough for a team with our aspirations and I’m guessing Klopp will see that. He strikes me as ruthless, such is his desire to win.
Mignolet is a good goalkeeper. Not world class but more than adequate. Klopp can manage with Weidenfeller. We will be fine with Mignolet.
Calling him a good shot stopper is like calling my neighbour a good driver of buses. It is the minimum requirement we would accept..