I know this. Simon Mignolet doesn’t sell well. The Belgian goalkeeper has divided opinion among Liverpool supporters from the very first inkling of a rumor that he was Merseyside-bound from Sunderland. Grumblings have swirled around any optimism from the get-go and we’ve basically been sitting in this gray goalkeeper soup ever since.
There have been ups and downs for the Liverpool shot stopper. Mignolet has managed the knack of winning a few hearts one week only to suddenly lose a boatload the next. Win more hearts. And then it’s obscene hand gestures. And the topsy-turvy world of the almost-but-not-quite-excellent goalkeeper spins and spins.
But Mignolet is still the club’s number one because he and, almost-replacement, Loris Karius, both share a reticence to command their box during high-stress moments. Balls lobbed into the area, in-swinging free kicks, corners. The dreaded long throw-in.
Which brings us to Stoke City. Stoke City will use all of that to get at Mignolet and the Liverpool defense. Stoke City specialize in dead ball shenanigans. Balls will be lofted into the six-yard box and the boys will need to be ready to communicate and deal effectively with that trouble.
“We’ll have to adapt our positions,” said Simon, “and to make sure we are well organized and don’t give chances away.”
Of course, Mignolet has been witness to all the various center back pairings in front of him this season. And it’s worth noting that while Simon performing at a high-level shouldn’t be rooted in a familiarity with his defense, there is an unreliability factor that certainly comes into play when players are in and out of the team so dramatically. Organizing becomes just that little bit more difficult. The vision of a clean sheet disintegrates before our very eyes.
“(It’s about) not only trying to score the decisive goal,” said Mignolet, “but also making sure we don’t concede that one. It’s both ends of the pitch and we have to do that all together.
“Away from home, first we have to try and keep a clean sheet. And if we can do that it will make it easier for us to win games.”
Simon is our man for the run-in as he’s been our man for much of the season. I’d say enjoy these next seven games with the big Belgian as he may be off in the summer to challenges anew. But he’s been a model professional since he came to Liverpool and has made a hell of a few great saves along the way. Onward to Stoke.