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Forget It Klopp – Why This Liverpool Stopper Should Not Be Viewed As The Club’s First-Choice

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Loris Karius (left) and Simon Mignolet (right)

Why Simon Mignolet Should Not Be Viewed As Liverpool’s ‘Number 1’

Liverpool’s defensive frailty has been a subject of strong criticism since the inception of the 2017-18 campaign and Jurgen Klopp, the Reds’ boss, has been criticised for not acquiring a new centre-back that was supposed to be their top-most priority all summer. The Merseysiders struggled in their opening fixture in a 3-3 draw against Watford and despite a few impressive outcomes including a 4-0 triumph over Arsenal, Liverpool’s defensive pandemonium was exposed in their 5-0 defeat against Manchester City.

It continued in the fixtures following that, including a UEFA Champions League group stage encounter against Sevilla, Premier League outing against Burnley and League Cup Third Round exit against Leicester City last midweek. But the Reds finally managed to bounce back from misery and clinched a nervy yet much-needed 3-2 win against the Foxes at King Power Stadium on Saturday evening.

The Liverpool defence was under scrutiny once more for the goals they conceded, but custodian Simon Mignolet also had an anxious outing despite saving Jamie Vardy’s spot-kick and helping his side to snatch a victory.

Klopp has been in a selection dilemma regarding his goalkeeper slot as the German gaffer has three custodians who, he believes, are capable of featuring regularly between the sticks. He brought in Loris Karius last year from FSV Mainz 05 but he could not stake his claim following a few erroneous displays that forced Klopp to bring Mignolet back into the starting XI.

Mignolet showed a massive improvement after his first-team return and played a massive role in Liverpool’s ‘Top-4’ finish. Danny Ward, the academy prodigy, had an extremely successful loan spell last term and played a massive role in Huddersfield Town’s Premier League promotion as he saved a spot-kick in the tie-breaker against favourites Reading FC in the Championship play-off final. David Wagner, the Terriers boss, wanted him on loan for this campaign as well, but Klopp rejected the approach with a view to rotate all three of his custodians.

Karius was handed a couple of starts but never looked promising enough. Ward, who was preferred for the cup games, lost in his first outing last midweek against Leicester City. Klopp has mentioned Mignolet as his ‘number one’ option but the Belgian has again raised doubts about his credibility following a nervy outing against the Foxes on Saturday evening.

His penalty heroics saved Liverpool’s day but he was at fault when Shinji Okazaki pulled one back in the closing seconds of the first-half. He seemed to have been fouled by the Japanese attacker in the process and Liverpool defence was at shambles once more, yet, Mignolet should have done a lot better in the first place. The Belgian almost made himself the villain in the second-half when he failed to clear a back-pass properly and hit Jamie Vardy in the follow through inside the box.

The referee did not hesitate to reward Leicester City a spot-kick but the custodian stepped and pulled off a decent stop to keep the scoreline intact.

Mignolet has saved 8 penalties out of 22 he has faced since his debut for the Reds back in 2013 where he denied Jonathan Walters in the league opener. An exceptional skill it might be, but goalkeeping is much more than saving spot-kicks.

Liverpool’s closest rivals do have the likes of David De Gea, Petr Cech, Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris between the sticks. Mignolet is nowhere near their quality and Liverpool must start finding an upgrade (or promote Danny Ward), along with signing a couple of central defenders, if they wish to keep challenging for the prestigious Premier League title.