It has not been a good season for Simon Mignolet. From September on, the Belgian has heard calls for a replacement to come in, from Victor Valdes on a free in the fall to the likes of Neto or Mattia Perin or Guillermo Ochoa this month, few have been convinced by Liverpool's current number one. His struggles were compounded by the fact that he's only recently regained his title as first-choice, with Brendan Rodgers taking him out of the spotlight by benching him in what's typically one of the the most watched fixtures on Liverpool's calendar.
Despite all that, Mignolet struck a defiant tone after Liverpool's win against Sunderland on Saturday, insisting that he's not bothered by ongoing discussion--some of it from his manager--about the need for Liverpool to find goalkeeping improvement in the transfer market this month:
"There's no point me even thinking about whether the club are going to sign a keeper. I just have to do my thing. I need to keep working hard in training and show what I can do on the pitch. I'm not thinking about anything other than my own job and trying to win games together with the team. That's only thing I have to do. The clean sheet was for the whole team, not just about the goalkeeper. Everybody did their jobs really well against Sunderland and we need to keep playing this way.
"We've got a very good unit here, a great bunch of lads all working hard for each other. It's obviously pleasing when you come out of a game like that, when it's been difficult with the wind and the conditions, you've worked hard and you've got your reward. We feel that there's a bit of momentum in the team now, but we're not looking back. "There are fixtures coming up that are really important to us, not just in the league but also in the cups."
He will certainly go unchallenged over the next few weeks barring a deal getting completed swiftly, as Brad Jones is still out indefinitely and young Danny Ward not likely to feature in any of the four competitions in which Liverpool remain. Some would argue that he shouldn't have been dropped in the first place, or at least not in the manner in which Rodgers went about it, but for now, Mignolet's place is secure.
It would be wonderful if he grabbed that and ran with it, as there's no doubt an excellent goalkeeper in there somewhere. Supporters saw as much in the fall of 2013, when his elite shot-stopping wasn't so stark in contrast to his other abilities. At that point he was developing with the ball at his feet and gradually gaining confidence in the air, whereas currently he has been cast as a one-trick pony.
Now seems as good a time as any for Simon Mignolet to recast himself, if that's still possible. Should he manage that, he'll give himself a chance at remaining the number one not by force, but by choice. Liverpool still need to add another goalkeeper this month, but if Mignolet can start to right the ship, whoever they sign won't have to be a new number one immediately.