On 14th December 2014, Liverpool’s first choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet saw himself being indefinitely dropped from the starting lineup after a string of abysmal performances between the sticks. Brad Jones leapfrogged him in the pecking order for arguably the most awaited clash of the season against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
He would go on to concede three goals over the next 90 minutes – one of them after being embarrassingly wrong-footed by a Wayne Rooney strike and the Reds were left to wonder just how far their goalkeeping standards had fallen.
When you are down, sometimes a little bit of luck is all you need. Towards the end of the year, after remaining on the sidelines for four matches, Mignolet got his opportunity against Burnley after Brad Jones suffered a thigh injury. The Belgian grabbed the opportunity with both hands and has not looked back ever since.
Liverpool’s recent run of impressive results has been powered by a solid defence which has conceded a meager 5 goals and has kept 6 clean sheets over their previous 10 matches in all competitions. Over this period, Mignolet has firmly established himself as a lynchpin of the defence. His stunning stop to deny Blackburn’s Alex Baptiste in the FA cup was another reminder of the Belgian’s ability and it ensured that the Reds remain in contention ahead of next month's replay at Ewood Park.
“Simon is a great goalkeeper, I was expecting him to be better [than the start of the season] and what he's doing right now is amazing,” Kolo Toure perfectly summed up the general sentiment among the Liverpool fans.
One can argue that his loss of form at the start of the season was just ill-timed and was even more exaggerated by the club’s poor returns in front of the goal. However Mignolet is giving no excuses and in a recent interview to the club’s official website he opined that being dropped from the squad has helped him regain his best form.
“I told myself I could do two things; let my head drop or work hard and come back stronger, I am happy with how I reacted in that sense. I am happy I kept my head down and worked hard in training. I didn't speak to the outside world; I just kept doing what I can do.”
- Simon Mignolet
Much to the relief of the Liverpool fans he is showing signs of fulfilling the potential he displayed during his Sunderland days. Still only 27, Mignolet is now thriving at Liverpool and his experience of more than 150 Premier League matches would be critical to the relatively inexperienced dressing room especially after Steven Gerrard’s imminent departure in the summer.
His relationship with Brendan Rodgers seems to have improved and the manager could now look to build a strong squad without worrying about replacing the man between the sticks.