Simon Mignolet’s situation at Liverpool: Time to regroup 0

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Simon Mignolet is becoming a figure of fun now.  Every error he makes is being met with online derision and ridicule and, surely, Brendan Rodgers has to now accept that his goalkeeper needs to sit down for a week or two.

The argument against that is obviously going to be the lack of a credible alternative - Brad Jones is not really a viable replacement - but this situation now transcends those concerns.

Rather than worry about the short-term strength of the team, it’s wise now to look at what it’s in the long-term best interests of the player.  This, remember, is still quite a young goalkeeper and exposing him at a time when his self-belief is pitifully low is actually quite reckless; form is transient, but a prolonged sequence of errors can be permanently damaging.

Stoke come to Anfield on Saturday.  Mark Hughes’ version of that side is more forgiving than the Tony Pulis incarnation, but they are a still a horrible opponent for any struggling goalkeeper.  They may not be quite as reliant on direct football as they once were, but they are still an enormously physical team and they possess a formidable set-piece threat because of their size.

That’s the nightmare scenario for Mignolet, because Stoke are really strong in all the areas in which he’s currently very weak.  Hughes will know that he’s struggling and he will adapt his gameplan accordingly: Any manager worth his salt would be instructing the visiting players to bombard the Liverpool penalty area at the weekend and to turn the sky black with crosses.

The goalkeeping department needs changing at Liverpool.  Cliched solution though it may be, it would make sense to bring in an actual competitor for Mignolet in January or at the end of the season.  Throughout his time at Anfield, he has always been the default number one and there has never been a credible threat to his position - and that’s rather strange for a top club.

Thibaut Courtois has Petr Cech, Wojciech Szczesny has David Ospina, and Joe Hart has Willy Caballero.  Those goalkeepers are all undisputed number ones at their respective clubs, but they all have a theoretical challenge to their place.  Liverpool, by contrast, have no depth at the position whatsoever.

Importing a challenging goalkeeper isn’t going to solve all of Simon Mignolet’s current problems, but - as the old platitude dictates - competition does breed improvement and, typically, it does prompt a degree of re-focusing.

That’s all just future strategy, though, and for the time-being it makes perfect sense to remove him from the spotlight.  It doesn’t have to be for any great length of time, but Brendan Rodgers needs to provide Mignolet with a separation between what has happened over the past few months and the rest of his career at Liverpool.

In layman’s terms: he needs a fresh start.

Mignolet is a flawed goalkeeper, but he is not a bad one.  Shot-stopping may be a prerequisite for a goalkeeper, but his reactions are still amongst the best in the division - and if he can marry them with some aerial conviction and a more decisive decision-making process, then there will be no problem.

Take him off the stage for a bit, let him work through his issues away from the television cameras.

For Squawka: Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool, and the need to avoid overreaction.

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