With the disappointing 2014/15 season thankfully over, we take a look at the form of each Liverpool player throughout the campaign, with Simon Mignolet up next.
In his second year at Anfield as number one ‘keeper, it really was a season of two halves for Simon Mignolet.
The Belgian arguably endured the most testing campaign of any player at the club, with his early season form a shocking contrast to the reliable shot-stopper that played between the sticks after the turn of the year.
SIMON MIGNOLET – 2014/15
Started: 53, Unused sub: 3, On as a sub: 1
Average TIA player rating: 6.53 (out of 10)
Early Season Struggles
It’s not unfair to say that Mignolet suffered a horrible first half to the season.
Horrendously out of form, the ‘keeper lacked even the most basic of goalkeeping fundamentals with his distribution dreadful, command of area non-existent and mistakes aplenty – not helped by the dysfunctional and inconsistent defensive system ahead of him.
Calls came for the club to replace Mignolet as early as January after three months of unconvincing performances and costly errors – including his rash charge out at home to Ludogorets, the highest profile one of all in Bulgaria when he spilled allowing Ludogorets’ Dani Abalo to tap home, and away to Leicester, which saw the chaos caused by his poor decision to rush out punished by Leonard Ulloa.
That’s before even recalling the numerous in-play mistakes such as his wayward pass that sailed straight out for a corner against Chelsea.
Brendan Rodgers dropped the keeper just two games after his latest episode against the Foxes.
No confidence, out of form and a shadow of the dominant, reliable figure we had seen previously, Mignolet was infamously benched for an “indefinite” period – something which only lasted a handful of games as the incoming Brad Jones suffered injury.
His return to the side as a substitute saw him endure a very nervy afternoon, but keep a clean sheet in a scrappy 1-0 win at Burnley on Boxing day, and as the team’s form improved, so did Mignolet’s.
He slowly but surely returned to the assured stopper the club paid £8million to sign.
The No.25 proved that calls to bin the Belgian were premature as he hit back with a sustained run of impressive form throughout the next three months that saw the rejuvenated commanding, decisive and dominant stopper produce a quite remarkable turnaround – undoubtedly helped by a settled back three in front.
From being cast aside and benched, Mignolet played a vital part in Liverpool’s mid-season upturn making big saves at big moments, winning his side some crucial points in the process.
Arguably his best performance of the campaign came in that run in March, when only a string of superb saves ensured Liverpool left Swansea with maximum points to show and a fifth straight away league clean sheet.
He could do nothing about the goals against Man United a week later – though he did save Wayne Rooney’s penalty – a loss that dealt a crushing blow to Liverpool’s confidence for the rest of the campaign.
But while form of teammates deteriorated around him from defence to attack, the Belgian to his credit remained consistent.
Mignolet continued his good form with more solid performances. He was outstanding in the scrappy FA Cup replay victory at Blackburn in April – a month in which he kept three clean sheets – before the rot well and truly set in and he conceded nine goals in the final two calamitous games of the season.
His performance on the final day against Stoke was the only negative in a sensational second half season transformation – something the 27-year-old deserves tremendous credit for when it looked like he would be on his way out of Anfield.
Improving & The Future
The former Sunderland man ended the season narrowly missing out on the Golden Glove award.
It’s remarkable that he was even in with a shout of winning it considering the chaos of the opening months – but even though he fell just short, his incredible improvement was rightly recognised by the Liverpool Former Players Association who voted him Player of the Year.
But the work doesn’t end there for the first choice stopper, who hasn’t been the subject of a single piece of speculation or call that the club sell him this summer – a testament to how well he turned his fortunes.
Mignolet has now set the benchmark and expectation level for his performances going into next season, and while he’s shown impressive consistency in his displays, he must now take his game to the next level.
By doing so he must improve on two key aspects; decision making and distribution.
A great shot-stopper, Mignolet still provides moments of panic with his hesitancy to act quickly and with confidence due to suspect judgements, and he must improve on his decisiveness when coming for crosses and off his line to relieve pressure in the box. [td_ad_box spot_id=“custom_ad_3″]
Kicking distance and accuracy is another area that still needs to improve, and while composed with the ball when on form – Mignolet’s inconsistent distribution has sometimes been at the root of Liverpool’s defensive problems, with the panic that follows a scuffed clearance.
Simon Mignolet’s Anfield career almost ended before it had really started, but after a challenging season full of learning curves, there’s much more cause for positivity over his Liverpool future, which will hopefully progress with more hard work next season.