Simon Mignolet ranked second in the list of last season’s clean sheets. Here is why I think he will be a crucial part in this season’s fight for Champions League football.
Debate on Simon Mignolet as a goalkeeper and whether or not he is competent is ongoing. His form has been, in two seasons, been up and down but when he on form he really is a top shot-stopper. He arrived from Sunderland in the summer transfer window in 2013 to provide competition for Pepe Reina who departed in favour of regular football.
Mignolet has the unfortunate trait of suffering knocks to his confidence which greatly influences his play. Last season Rodgers dropped his number one goalkeeper “indefinitely” as a result of the shocking run of form the Belgian was going through. He only came back into the side when Brad Jones limped off with an injury against Burnley.
All jokes aside it must be awful as a goalkeeper in a Liverpool side. The back four is offered next to no protection from midfield with with there being a complete lack of an out-and-out defensive midfielder. Henderson isn’t one and neither is James Milner. While Emre Can is a fantastic as a powerhouse but as a shield – almost useless.
And then we have Martin Skrtel who seems, for some unapparent reason, to be un-droppable. Simply put: opposition midfielders love playing against Liverpool given that they get a free run. Joe Allen, for instance, does not possess the abilities to protect the back four capably.
At times Mignolet can be maddeningly frustrating, then astonish you with a brilliant save and then he’s gone and done something daft like try and control the ball out of the air instead of catch it. The result, you ask? Corner to West Bromwich Albion. I seem to recall one such maddeningly frustrating situation that occurred on a sunny day at Old Trafford. Our Belgian shot-stopper received the ball and on the cusp of clearing it he faked right. All the while Wayne Rooney was on his tail the whole time. It was also the first time I have seen Brendan Rodgers shout.
During the 2013/2014 season all sense seemed to be turned upside down with Liverpool finishing second in the league and qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since 2009. It was a season of terrific attacking displays and great spirit that truly epitomized what Liverpool is all about. Passion and quality football. The emotions that ran through Anfield that season were all down to the goals that were scored by one of the most lethal duos in English football.
The shambles that was Liverpool’s defence in that season makes me shudder. Aly Cissokho and Glen Johnson as the fullbacks is enough to make any top half manager quake in his boots at the thought of having them as among the first choices. So in order for Liverpool to succeed this season a balance will need to be found between goals scored and goals conceded, a balance between attack and defence.
If you take a look at Chelsea before they signed Diego Costa my point will become clear. They weren’t scoring all that many goals but they were a class act in defence, well, they parked the bus. Liverpool should look to emulate this and make it the blueprint for the season.
You can find the orignial article on Michael’s personal blog – Rousing the Kop
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Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?
The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.
West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.
It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.
It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.
With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.
The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.
It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.
“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”
He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?
Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.
Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.
Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.
Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.
The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.
Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.
This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.
Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.
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