Liverpool ‘wouldn’t even be in top four without Mignolet’


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Liverpool's Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has come in for some criticism in recent weeks. He has made a few mistakes in his first season at the club, but overall, you could say he's been a success.

Signed for less than £10 million, Mignolet was brought to Anfield by Brendan Rodgers to replace the outgoing Pepe Reina, who had spent eight years at the club.

The Belgian had an outstanding final season at Sunderland, racking up the third-most saves in the Premier League with 124.

Bruce Grobbelaar recently criticised Mignolet and claimed he was Liverpool's weak link, but his manager Rodgers has stuck up for him.

“Simon hasn't ever cost us a game but he has certainly gained us points. He’s an excellent goalkeeper," said Rodgers.

Mignolet has made mistakes this season - like every goalkeeper - totalling seven. Only John Ruddy has more, with nine. Of his seven, Mignolet has conceded five goals through them which is the highest in the league. From those figures you can see where Grobbelaar was coming from.

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However, there were a lot more games over the past season that suggest Mignolet was a good piece of business. He's made 70 saves in 36 appearances this season which is not one of the highest but is the same as Asmir Begovic.

Now, a good goalkeeper is not determined by how many saves he makes as lesser sides with terrible defences will force their goalkeeper into making more saves. Mignolet has the added assurance of some experienced players in front of him, including Martin Skrtel, whose 403 clearances is the most in Europe.

In terms of making diving saves - the ones that make Match of the Day - Mignolet has the fourth-highest figure with 50. Again, the same as Begovic.

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The Belgian often makes an outstanding save drawing applause from Liverpool supporters and he's made a fair few this season, but how many points has he actually saved for the Reds?

We can start off with the first three games of the season. On the opening day at Anfield, Liverpool were hanging onto a 1-0 lead against Stoke City. With a couple of minutes remaining, Stoke were awarded a penalty to halt Liverpool's winning start. However, Mignolet made a superb double save to win the match for Liverpool. So there's two points saved already.

Next up was Aston Villa away where Mignolet was magnificent. He made two vital saves and kept a clean sheet. You could argue that's another two points - so four up to now after just two matches.

The third game of the season, Liverpool beat Manchester United 1-0 and, again, he made two big saves. He also dominated aerially claiming 100 per cent of balls he attempted to catch or punch. Two more points? Yes.

In the next few games, Mignolet made very important saves and was strong in the air. In draws against Swansea City and Newcastle, then wins against Crystal Palace and Sunderland, and a defeat to Southampton, Mignolet potentially saved the Reds three points in total. So up to now, he's saved nine points for Liverpool.

Then, over the next nine games the Reds grabbed six wins, a draw and two defeats to Hull and Arsenal. The only game where he really saved Liverpool was the Merseyside derby where he made eight saves. The final result was 3-3 so he definitely saved the Reds a point.

Another group of nine matches follows where Liverpool's form saw them take control of fourth place and start moving towards a title challenge. Five wins were accompanied by two draws and two defeats. Now those two defeats can be blamed on Mignolet after a huge error in each game (Manchester City & Chelsea) that led to a goal being conceded. So, you could say Mignolet cost Liverpool a point in each of those games, taking his overall tally down to eight.

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Then, the next ten games saw nine wins and a single defeat. Mignolet did not cost his side any points in this run but did he save any? A 4-3 win at home to Swansea City was helped by his two big saves. You could say he saved the Reds two valuable points, so he's back up to 10.

Swift wins against Southampton, Man Utd and Cardiff followed that Mignolet didn't have much to do. Then, more wins against Sunderland, Tottenham and West Ham followed. Next up was Manchester City at Anfield which Mignolet made two very big saves to deny City. The Sky Blues did pull the scores back from 2-0 to 2-2 but Mignolet's two saves kept Liverpool in the game and allowed them to push on and win. Two more points and now Mignolet is up to 12.

The final couple of games were a win against Norwich City and the damaging defeat to Chelsea. Neither goal from the Chelsea game could be blamed on Mignolet but he was at fault for one at Carrow Road a week earlier. His mistimed jump allowed the ball to fall to Gary Hooper's feet who made is 2-1, giving Norwich a chance back in the game. However, a big save he made in the second half kept his side in front as they sustained the home side's pressure. Definitely another point there.

So, overall, I make it out as 13 points saved by Mignolet this season. Jose Mourinho once said that a top class goalkeeper can win a team 12 points in a season and Mignolet is on target to beat that. Without those points Liverpool wouldn't be in the top four - let alone challenging for the title.

The Belgian has made some sloppy errors which can be eradicated with more confidence and coaching, but he's had a great season and a big reason as to why Liverpool find themselves involved in a title race.

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