Clean sheets have been in short supply for Liverpool in all competitions and the last one was in the disappointing goalless draw at home to Sunderland in early December. Various problems, including the manager's reluctance to shake things up in the coaching department, have plagued Liverpool's defending as a unit. There have been individual errors that have only worsened Liverpool's defensive problems, and the goalkeeper position has become a source of much debate since Brendan Rodgers reacted to a Champions League exit by dropping his first-choice goalkeeper with the number 22 shirt for his number two goalkeeper in possession of the number one shirt.
Simon Mignolet has his flaws, but is he the primary force behind Liverpool's unstable defence? A lack of pressure from the front, immobility in midfield, inexperience in the fullback positions, incompetence at centre back, poor defensive and goalkeeping coaching (conjecture at this stage), and indecision in goal all contribute to a general failure to defend effectively this season. Brad Jones is a loyal player and seems to be a lovely chap. The problem is that he's not very good and would struggle to be a convincing candidate as a number two for any of Liverpool's rivals. The Australian succumbed to injury and provided Mignolet with an unexpected opportunity to return to the line-up, but the former Sunderland goalkeeper was ready for action.
"You always have to be ready when you are on the bench or if you are the second-choice goalkeeper. Anything can happen in the warm-up so I tried to prepare myself as normal and then when you get the chance you hope you do well," Mignolet commented after the match. "Today we got the three points and we're very pleased with that because it's a very difficult ground to come to. I was still warm from the warm-up that helped me a bit. I tried to stay relaxed. I'm not a guy who gets flustered easily so I tried to focus on my own game.
"Brad and I get on really well. We work hard. It was very unfortunate for him to pick up an injury but I'm sure he will be back soon. We do our best every day in training together to get better. I just take every game as it comes. I'll work hard and keep my head down as I have always been doing so nothing changes for me. Sometimes things get tough but then you have to step up. I'm a positive guy and I always try and go again and that's what I will keep doing."
These words in isolation serve to present a confident figure, ready to work and eager to show what he can do. However, Simon Mignolet made some notable mistakes in the victory at Turf Moor that illustrated a player whose confidence was low and in need of rebuilding after being dropped for a clearly inferior player by some distance. Liverpool may be in the market for a new first-choice goalkeeper in January, and maybe conducting that business as quickly as possible would be wise. Brad Jones isn't the short-term or long-term answer in any way, which indicates that last summer's activity made a serious error in not providing enough depth in a crucial position. Mignolet's distribution and lack of command of his area remain grave weaknesses in his game but he is a superb shot stopper who has produced crucial interventions for the benefit of the club.
Perhaps Mignolet's words convey a determination to forge a successful career at Liverpool and he's been the target of some extremely harsh criticism by former players, pundits, and fans. A replacement may be on the way, but right now, there's no viable one at the club irrespective of injuries and form. A clean sheet at Burnley with some inexplicably jittery moments may not have been the assured way to return to action but it's a start.