A Comedy of Emirates: Tough Goalkeeping Decisions Needed
“We’re defending really well at the moment, we’ve been solid.” – Simon Mignolet, 20th December 2017.
Hubris: noun – excessive pride or self-confidence. – the Oxford English Dictionary
Simon Mignolet played his 199th game for Liverpool on Friday at the Emirates Stadium and was largely responsible for the Gunners securing a draw when Liverpool were coasting with a 0-2 lead. While the first goal can be put down to a Joe Gomez error borne of inexperience, the goalkeeper must take the blame for the other two. Firstly, thanks to applying a jellylike wrist to Granit Xhaka’s long range strike and then from going down too early at his near post to meet Mesut Ozil’s shot. Up until then such was Liverpool’s dominance that Sky’s curmudgeonly commentator was talking about the possibility of yet another 4-0 away win for the Merseysiders.
As for the interview conducted earlier this week, there’s nothing wrong with believing in your own ability; there’s nothing wrong with considering yourself impregnable, but, equally, there is nothing wrong with praising the opposition or ‘giving them a bit of toffee’ as Bob Paisley used to say. That way you take the pressure off yourself and hand it over to the other side to see how they react. Mignolet chose to praise himself and his back four. The rest was inevitable.
We never learn.
Jurgen Klopp will always back his players. His love of his lads is laudable, but it is also his biggest failing. I’ve no doubt that the big Belgian is a delight and a force of good around Anfield and Melwood, but he is simply a man who cannot be trusted between the sticks.
Look around the league. Both Manchester clubs have excellent goalkeepers in de Gea and Ederson while Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois keeps Mignolet out of the Belgian national side. Liverpool’s goalkeepers are mere tribute acts by comparison.
And yet the club have done next to nothing to address the issue. Many thought that the addition of Lorus Karius would see Mignolet off, but in reality, his arrival merely muddied the waters with the manager dividing their time with Karius taking the shirt for the Champions League games and Mignolet fulfilling the domestic fixtures. Liverpool chose to fall between two stools or stall between two fools.
The bottom line is simple. You don’t mess about with your keeper. It’s the one position where you buy immediate quality – not men who might come good one day. Let them make their mistakes for other clubs, not ours.
In the 1980s Liverpool mocked Manchester United mercilessly for their lack of title. While the Reds had the erratic but brilliant Bruce Grobbelaar, United made do with the likes of Les Sealey and Jim Leighton. Good enough to a certain point, but nothing to end the smirking from the other side of the M62. Then they bought Peter Schmeichel. His signing was Ferguson’s biggest coup, not Cantona. The trophies poured in.
Years later Gerard Houllier was ruthless in his dismissal of Sander Westerveld once it became obvious that the Dutchman had flaws. Rafa Benitez took Jerzy Dudek’s antics – incredible display in Istanbul aside – for only a short time before he brought in Pepe Reina – a much more reliable keeper. You don’t mess about with that position.
And yet we still persist with a player who is patently not good enough for the ambitions we hold. This club has to make a decision. Do we make a statement signing or do we resign ourselves to more nights like tonight?
Yes, the defence has improved of late, but we are always a limp wrist away from changing Klopp’s brand of heavy metal football to a jazz recital where anything goes.
‘He misjudged it and that’s how life is’ said the manager concerning the second goal, but it’s more than a freak thing. It’s simply another example of throwing away points needlessly.
It would be less of an issue if it were just the odd goal, but this side, though great at times, can lose two and three-goal leads in the blink of an eye.
You have to feel for Roberto Firmino at the other end. The Brazilian ran himself into the ground for Liverpool only to see a substandard player literally hand a point over to a top-four rival.
The manager and the club hierarchy have to make a decision no matter how uncomfortable and cruel it may be. Enough is enough. It’s time to decide which club we want to be.