Football

Simon Mignolet renaissance epitomises Liverpool's FA Cup run

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It wasn't too long ago that Simon Mignolet was being written off as the number one at Liverpool.

And yet, his recent heroics have helped Brendan Rodgers' side claim vital points in the Premier League and, after yesterday's performance, secure a passage to the FA Cup quarter-final.

Exorcising demons

The 2-1 win at Crystal Palace also went some way to exorcising old demons for Mignolet, who produced a handful of top saves when it really mattered at Selhurst Park.

The Belgian international arrived at Anfield with an impressive reputation built at Sunderland, with Rodgers spending £9million to prize the player away from the Black Cats in the summer of 2013.

His first season with the Reds was impressive, saving a penalty on debut in a 1-0 win over Stoke City at Anfield. A pretty good start.

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Whilst there wasn't much finger pointing at him last season, it was one of only eight clean sheets in the top flight. Liverpool were scoring goals and exciting to watch, but they were regularly conceding them as well.

Much of the blame for that style was placed at the feet of the defence, but a number of errors from Mignolet himself at the start of the current campaign saw him dropped for Brad Jones in December. It wasn't a nothing game either - Manchester United away.

Jones injury

His luck turned on Boxing Day when replacement Brad Jones got injured, and the 26-year-old has looked like a different player ever since.

It certainly isn't luck - behind the scenes Mignolet has gone through a potentially painful self-assessment and come out the other end a better player.

In an interview with The Guardian ahead of Saturday's tie against the Eagles, the former Sint-Truiden stopper revealed that it was a conversation with his wife on Boxing Day which persuaded him to seek some help.

Psychological influence

Sports psychologist Steve Peters was one of those to help a player 'over-thinking' things on Merseyside, and the results appear to have been fairly instant.

Goalkeepers are generally remembered for mistakes rather than saves, but in the 0-0 draw with Everton it was a fine stop from Seamus Coleman which preserved a point. Against Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, it was Erik Lamela who found a keeper in top form. A wonderful tip over kept it 3-2 - more crucial points.

And then, in South East London, it was when 1-0 down that Mignolet's foot denied Dwight Gayle. The definitive moment in the game, according to Alan Pardew.

Liverpool turned it around in the second period, but there was still time for the keeper to block another Gayle effort late on and cement the win.

Make your own luck

It seems a bit cliche to say that, three months ago, the ball might have just ricocheted off Mignolet and found its way into the back of the net. Luck seemed to be against the Belgian.

But you make your own look in football, and after seeking help to improve his own game, the ball is certainly rolling in the right direction for Mignolet once again. It's no coincidence that the same is happening to Liverpool.

Having survived a close shave with AFC Wimbledon and a replay against Bolton, the Reds are now right in the mix for some much-needed silverware this season. Steven Gerrard's birthday; FA Cup final; Wembley. If the fairytale happens, he'll have his goalkeeper to thank.

So what do you think - has Mignolet proved himself to be the number one Liverpool need moving forward? Have your say below...

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Topics:
Football
FA Cup
Simon Mignolet
Liverpool

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