TEAMtalk assessment: Mignolet v Reina

TEAMtalk's goalkeeping specialist Ian Watson weighs up the respective merits of rival stoppers Simon Mignolet and Pepe Reina at Anfield.

Last Updated: 27/06/13 at 11:56 Post Comment

Simon Mignolet: May need to adapt his game

Simon Mignolet: May need to adapt his game

More of the games that matter

Upgrade in minutes or watch with a NOW TV Day Pass.

Liverpool have set about their transfer business this summer with an obvious determination to avoid the costly mistakes of 12 months ago.

Simon Mignolet this week became the club's fourth new arrival of a transfer window that is yet to officially open, and the Belgian is arguably the club's most intriguing signing so far.

All we know for sure is that Mignolet is a Liverpool player. The club, as is the fashion these days, confirmed only that the 25-year-old had signed a long-term contract after Sunderland were paid an undisclosed fee.

Reports suggest Mignolet could cost the Reds up to £11million - a sizeable sum which sees him become the Premier League's joint-third most expensive goalkeeper. The size of the investment also indicates that Brendan Rodgers sees the Belgian as his number one for the new season - despite what the manager and his new recruit say about Pepe Reina's prospects.

Rodgers says he told Reina over dinner before the end of last season that he was planning to add some competition to an area where there was previously none. However, despite the manager's claims of harmony, Reina is unlikely to accept even the prospect of a bench role. Nor do Liverpool want one of their highest-paid players rotting in reserve.

Pepe Reina: Faces tough battle for No 1 jersey

Indeed, Mignolet would surely not have moved to Merseyside unless he had received some assurances over his status.

With less than a year until the World Cup in Brazil, the Belgian - the first to play for Liverpool - has often spoken of his ambition to be number one for Marc Wilmots' much-fancied side. If he is to achieve that, Mignolet must have an eye on matching his ever-present record in the Premier League last season.

Most Liverpool supporters have welcomed the arrival of Mignolet, although those loyal to Reina have questioned whether he is better than what they already have.

The simple comparison is that Mignolet was one of the most impressive goalkeepers in the division last season - possibly the best. Reina's performances, however, fell below the level the Liverpool faithful have come to expect.

Mignolet was by far the most consistent performer for Sunderland and the Black Cats have him to thank more than anyone else for the fact they remained in the top flight.

Despite Sunderland's struggles, the 25-year-old still kept 11 clean sheets. While that statistic suggests the Black Cats' problems were rooted at the other end of the field, Mignolet still had to work for those shut-outs, making 149 saves in the process, which ranks him second only behind the rejuvenated Jussi Jaaskelainen at West Ham.

For the purposes of comparing the two Liverpool goalkeepers, stats without context can sometimes be misleading. One of the more telling performance indicators, though, is the ratio of saves to shots the keepers faced from inside the box. Mignolet's 66.4 per cent success rate in this category bettered Reina by 11 per cent.

Premier League 2012-13Simon MignoletJosé Reina
TeamSunderlandLiverpool
Appearances3831
Minutes On Pitch34202790
Goals Conceded5434
Minutes per Goal Conceded6382
Clean Sheets1114
Saves
Saves14973
Saves per game3.92.4
Saves from Inside Box9336
Saves from Outside Box5637
Saves to Shots ratio73.4%68.2%
Saves to Shots ratio (inside)66.4%55.4%
Saves to Shots ratio (outside)88.9%88.1%
Catches
Punches3917
Catches4731
Dropped Catches50
Catch Success Rate %94.5%100.0%
Passing
Touches16381322
Touches per game43.142.6
Total Passes746692
Pass Completion %41.4%70.8%
Pass Completion into final third %36.6%19.4%
Short Passes Attempted94343
Successful Short Passes68330
Unsuccessful Short Passes2613
Short Pass Accuracy72.34%96.21%
Long Passes Attempted652349
Successful Long Passes241160
Unsuccessful Long Passes411189
Long Pass Accuracy36.96%45.85%

That said, the demands placed on the Sunderland and Liverpool keepers varied considerably.

Martin O'Neill and Paolo Di Canio preferred Mignolet to concentrate on stopping the opposition but, at Anfield, Rodgers also expects his last line of defence to be the first line of his attack. This may be the greatest challenge for Mignolet in adapting to life on Merseyside.

Reina's distribution - both in quality and variety - has always been among his better qualities, as you would expect of a goalkeeper schooled at Barcelona. Last season, there was an almost-exactly 50/50 split between long and short passes from the Liverpool stopper.

Mignolet and Sunderland, though, were far more direct. The Black Cats keeper attempted 746 passes - 87.3 per cent of which went long.

This may reflect the instructions given to Mignolet from his managers at Sunderland. But what might concern his new boss more is that only 72 per cent of the 94 short passes he attempted reached their target. In major contrast, Reina was accurate with 96 per cent of his 343 short passes attempted. He was also more accurate over longer distances too.

Mignolet told Liverpool's official website that the extra duties did not worry him. "Back in Belgium, the goalies always train to play with the ball at their feet," he said. "We join in most of the time, playing more with our feet than with our hands. I'm used to this."

Regardless of however true that may be, the added responsibility is unlikely to ruffle Mignolet, who says he has "never been a nervous person".

Indeed, Liverpool have acquired one of the coolest keepers in the game - an intelligent, down-to-earth individual who speaks five languages and has a degree in political science. If anyone has the nous to adapt to such a different style of play, it is probably Mignolet.

The competition argument is also something of a moot point. Reina will not be happy to stew on the bench and nor does he need to for Mignolet's sake. Thibaut Courtois will push Mignolet from Madrid, where he will spend a third season on loan at Atletico. Mignolet's desire to retain his Belgium place will be incentive enough for him to perform at club level.

Reina, then, appears to be surplus to requirements and despite the noises coming out of Anfield, it seems Liverpool would happily accept a decent offer to get the Spain number three off their wage bill.

It might all still end happily ever after, though, for the 31-year-old. Despite Victor Valdes' insistence that he will play out the final year of his contract at Barcelona, the Primera Division champions may yet offer Reina a return to Catalonia. If Monaco or anyone else is willing to pay for Valdes, then Barca would prefer to take the money to reinvest in a replacement now, rather than have to budget for a new goalkeeper in 12 months.

Arsene Wenger may finally follow through on his long-standing interest in Reina but there is no question the former Villarreal stopper would favour a return to Spain.

The future, though, for Mignolet appears much clearer. Providing he can adapt to the more specialist demands of a Liverpool goalkeeper, there appears no reason that he could not at least match Reina's eight-year occupation of the Anfield goal and prove his transfer fee - whatever the amount - to be one of the wisest investments of the summer.

You can follow Ian on Twitter here.

TEAMtalk Facebook Fan Page

The TEAMtalk fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

W

ell that really inspires me with confidence. No point in training, deciding on a coherent formation, or playing players in their best positions, let's just hope we get lucky.

mumbo_jimbo
Van Gaal: Luck is key

I

believe this is because for sepp Christmas is a 7 day feast finishing on the 25th

hiya
Blatter calls for early final

F

alcao really needs to shine now. Apparently according to the stats, he scores more when played up front alone. I wonder if Van Gaal will actually apply a formation to get the best out of him though.

anthracyte
Van Persie lay-off expected

Footer 365

Mauricio Pochettino proud of Tottenham players despite Capital One Cup loss

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said he was proud of his players despite losing to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup final.

Jose Mourinho hails players for adapting to gameplan in Capital One Cup success

Jose Mourinho hailed his players for adapting to his gameplan after Chelsea’s Capital One Cup final success against Spurs.

John Terry targets more Chelsea trophies after Capital One Cup success

John Terry says Chelsea's "massive" Capital One Cup final win over Tottenham could be the start of something special.

Mail Box

Are Tottenham Right To Redevelop?

It's a really good Friday afternoon Mailbox, with thoughts on Spurs' ground development, the Europa league (leave it alone) and one man running for a very good cause...

Rodgers Is More Of A Paisley Than A Rafa

Most Liverpool fans in the Mailbox are claiming to be pleased to see the back of the Europa League. Plus merging the Europa and Champions League, and winter WC...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company