Liverpool: Mignolet ready for battle; Lucas praised; Jose Enrique finds new club
Other than Alberto Moreno, there probably is not another first team Liverpool player who receives as much stick as goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Despite his excellent penalty saving record and occasionally brilliant shot stopping, he is too often the reason the team drops points, and has become a target for fans when these blunders occur.
So when Liverpool signed Loris Karius, the promising young Mainz goalkeeper over the summer, it appeared that Mignolet’s days as undisputed number one at Anfield were over, but a broken hand for the German has allowed Mignolet to start the season unchallenged.
Karius is nearly back to full fitness, and Mignolet is relishing the battle that will come with the 22-year-old ‘keeper. The Belgian explained that the club told him that there would be fresh competition for his spot in the side, but that nothing has changed from his part and he is still working hard and concentrating on his own performance.
He also told the Liverpool Echo that the awarding of the number one jersey to Karius has nothing to do with perceived pecking order, and the Belgian actually turned down the chance to switch as he is familiar and comfortable with his number 22 shirt.
Mignolet is confident of keeping his place, but many will hope Karius gets the opportunity to shine. He was exceptional for a strong Mainz team last season, and early suggestions are that he is a better all round goalkeeper than Mignolet, who is often weak from crosses and with the ball at his feet, despite his brilliant shot stopping. He may be relishing a battle, but the Belgian will likely come off second best.
Elsewhere, Liverpool have received a boost from the fitness table, as Lucas made a return to the pitch in an under 23s match against Arsenal, drawing great praise from some of his young counterparts.
Young midfielder Cameron Brannagan was amazed with Lucas’ ability to lead from the back, after playing centre back from the under 23s, whilst under 23 coach Michael Beale referred to the Brazilian’s selfless sharing of his experience with young players, and touted him for a strong management career.
This kind of praise goes only to show the importance that having a player as experienced and long-serving at the club as Lucas is. After nine years on Merseyside, he knows the club inside out, and wants to help improve the team for the future.
More than that, he can still do a job for the team, either as a hard tackling defensive midfielder, or as a replacement centre back, and his return from fitness will be a timely one.
Finally, released defender Jose Enrique has found himself a new club, joining Spanish second division club Real Zaragoza.
After joining from Newcastle in 2011, Enrique made 99 appearances for the Reds, although only 21 of those over the last three seasons. He only appeared in three games last campaign, all in the FA Cup.
Although he never really let the Reds down, Enrique was systematic of the kind of mediocrity that has plagued Liverpool ever since Rafael Benitez left the club. He was a solid defender, but never likely to help the Reds get back into the Champions League, and the fact he is playing in the Spanish second division now is no real surprise.
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