It looks like Pepe Reina could return to Anfield after his season-long loan at Napoli. Although his place in the Liverpool team is not guaranteed, it would be right for all parties to keep the Spanish international at the club.
Simon Mignolet was drafted in from Sunderland last season, who snatched the number one goalkeeping role from Reina, forcing the 31-year-old to move to Italy if he wanted regular first-team football.
Nonetheless, Mignolet did not have the most straightforward first season for the Reds. Although he made some crucial shot-stopping saves, the Belgian looked out of his depth at times, not showing the confidence that he did when playing for the Black Cats.
There are four crucial errors that cost Liverpool points and quite possibly the title that stick in my mind.
Mignolet’s poor handling to stop Samuel Eto’o short ranged finish allowed a 2-1 victory for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, his failure to deal with a cross that allowed Christian Benteke an easy tap in, in the 2-2 draw at Anfield and finally his indecisiveness and weak hand when Mignolet pushed Alvaro Negredo’s lobbed effort into the back of his net.
That is five points that the goalkeeper was at error for. Liverpool lost the title by two points – you do the maths.
There’s not a question that Mignolet didn’t make some top saves last season, he did. However, a lot of his times it was when he was forced to come and meet the ball from crosses. He looked tentative when doing so, never really committing himself fully and you could tell he doubted himself.
The 26-year-old fumbled a cross in the Reds’ first game of the season against his old side Sunderland, however most people dismissed that for reasons of it being first game nerves and playing against his old club. Nonetheless, it was things of signs to come.
Meeting crosses is not Pepe Reina’s specialist areas either. In the 2012/13 campaign, he fumbled many a ball coming in from a cross or a set piece. However, it was just in the later stages of his Liverpool career.
A well-known saying is that it is complacency that kills the sailor. I think that Reina suffered this fate. In his first years at Liverpool, Reina had the challenge of 2005 Champions League hero Jerzy Dudek to force the best out of him and if he did make a few errors, the former Poland international would be brought in to replace Reina.
When Dudek left for Real Madrid, Reina had little competition. He had to compete with Charles Itandje, Diego Caveleri, Alexander Doni and Brad Jones. He kept his high standards up for a while, but when it became apparent that they were not a threat to him, he lacked the same motivation he once had.
I think that Mignolet may have suffered the same fate last season. He had just Brad Jones to compete him with. Let’s looks at Jones; he was brought into Liverpool fully expecting not to start for the side and act as cover. That is not a good vibe for Mignolet to have, as it allowed him to become self-righteous and not worry about being dropped from the teamsheet.
The fourth mistake that I have not mentioned is Kolo Toure’s in the 1-1 draw away at West Bromwich Albion. On first glance, it looked like the former Arsenal player's fault; nevertheless if you look at the replays, Mignolet is as much to blame.
Liverpool’s back four were pressed deep by the Baggies at the time and when Mignolet received the ball, he was no more than five yards from Toure. With 10 minutes to go, under such pressure at that moment, all he had to do was hoof the ball up field.
I know Brendan Rodgers is trying to encourage passing football from the back, but in hindsight, no matter what he says, Rodgers probably wishes his goalkeeper had done so at the time.
Reina would have likely launched that up field. His ball distribution, for a goalkeeper is second to none. He has composure on the ball and has beat closing opponents with silky turns that wow the crowd.
There is not all that much between the pair’s goalkeeping ability, and Reina is better with the ball at his feet. He can pick a pass and start the passing from the back, even if it needs to go 40 yards up field.
Competition is healthy. Both goalkeepers have suffered from complacency at their time at Anfield. It is time now for them to fight it out in pre-season to see who deserves to start against Southampton in August and keep their place.
As for the other, he should be working hard in training and wait for his call up. Once that happens, he’ll value how important a good performance will be.
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