David James: Why Liverpool shouldn’t be worried about Simon Mignolet
Former Liverpool No1 David James says Simon Mignolet is a very good goalkeeper, but needs some respite
Simon Mignolet’s Liverpool career has been inextricably linked to Stoke City since his move to Anfield in the summer of 2013.
The Belgium international won over The Kop on his debut with a last-minute save to deny Potters striker Jonathan Walters from the spot and secure a 1-0 win on the opening day of the 2013-14 season.
Having half a bad season, not even that, an indifferent spell wouldn’t have been too much of a worry
After narrowly missing out on the Premier League title in that campaign, Mignolet endured a forgettable 6-1 loss to Stoke in May which concluded a miserable 2014-15 season for player and club.
The omens, then, are good for Brendan Rodgers and his goalkeeper this term after Mignolet kept a clean sheet and Liverpool eased to a late 1-0 victory over Stoke at The Britannia in their season opener on Sunday.
Former Liverpool goalkeeper David James also came under pressure during his Anfield career due to his tendency to make occasional errors throughout a season, but the former England No1 is under no illusion Mignolet is a quality shot-stopper.
“Before he came to Liverpool, Simon was one of the most-highly regarded goalkeepers in the league,” BT Sport pundit James told The Sport Review.
“He and Asmir Begovic could have effectively gone anywhere.
“So having half a bad season, not even that, an indifferent spell wouldn’t have been too much of a worry. He is a very good goalkeeper.”
Indeed, Mignolet’s future at Liverpool looked uncertain for a spell midway through last season after he was dropped in favour of back-up goalkeeper Brad Jones.
Injury to the Australian provided Mignolet with an almost immediate reprieve, and to his credit, the Belgian was much-improved in the second half of the campaign, keeping 15 clean sheets in his last 31 games.
And James, who moved to Liverpool from Watford in 1992, felt the 27-year-old was subjected to unfair criticism after a difficult spell.
“Well Simon’s first season wasn’t bad at Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers’s sides traditionally concede a lot of goals. You wouldn’t say it is the goalkeeper’s fault. It is just their style of play. They score loads and concede loads,” James continued.
“In that sense, Simon was never going to be questioned. Last season, he was dropped for a period and came under pressure, he was a little fortunate to get back into the side because of Brad Jones’s injury. He finished the season well.”
The the 45-year-old played for eight English clubs during his 26-year career as a professional goalkeeper.
James earned a reputation for being an expert shot-stopper, particularly during spells at Manchester City and Portsmouth, much like Mignolet did at Sunderland before his £9m move to Liverpool.
He is a very good goalkeeper and it would be nice if he could get a respite
While the former England goalkeeper enjoyed playing for lower-ranked sides, which invariably kept him occupied throughout games, as his career progressed, he grew to appreciate the value of a clean sheet even if his services weren’t required.
“Having been at Liverpool and playing in games when we were good, I’d walk off the pitch and get, ‘Well done, Jamo’. I’d reply, ‘Why? All I did was a goal kick,” he said. “I didn’t have to do much and wasted a week’s worth of training for nothing. That is when the big save and the concentration is important.
“You might have a big save to make in the 60th minute. At Portsmouth, quite often, it was non-stop. You might have a good day and you save everything and everyone thinks you’re fantastic… you’re constantly on it.”
James continued: “I always liked making saves, however, I also liked clean sheets. The older I got, I appreciated more if I’m busy, something isn’t right in front of me.
“If you have to win a game of football, you’d rather do so without having to do anything. It means everything else in front of you is working well.”
And for Mignolet and Liverpool’s sake, James hopes the Reds number one is set for a quiet season in goal.
“He is a very good goalkeeper and it would be nice if he could get a respite.”
Liverpool face newly-promoted Bournemouth in their next Premier League outing at Anfield on Saturday.
BT Sport 1 has live coverage of the new Barclays Premier League season with Southampton v Everton this Saturday from noon. This season BT Sport Europe is the new home of European football with all UEFA Champions League matches and Uefa Europa League matches exclusively live, visit btsport.com/europe.