Not long ago, there were serious doubts surrounding the future of Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet after a series of errors and some poor performances led to his position as the club’s number one shot stopper coming under threat.
But three months on, the Belgian international has proved himself to be one of the key players at Anfield, as the Merseyside outfit continue a fine run of form that has put them in with a real chance of another top four finish, as well as in touching distance of an FA Cup Final at Wembley in May.
Sunday’s sixth round 0-0 draw with Blackburn Rovers was certainly disappointing from a Liverpool perspective with a tricky reply at Ewood Park now in store, but their participation in the draw for the last four the following evening owed much to the heroics of their goalkeeper; who produced another wonderful save to deny Alex Baptiste’s header from winning the tie for Gary Bowyer’s Championship outfit.
Liverpool remain favourites to reach the last four and with a favourable draw against Premier League strugglers Aston Villa the prize if they do so, there is real belief that the club can go onto lift the famous old trophy.
The stalemate saw Mignolet pick up another clean sheet, the club’s ninth since the turn of the year, a run which has coincided with an upturn in fortunes on both a personal and collective note.
Following a difficult start to the campaign, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers made the decision to drop Mignolet from the starting eleven, citing his need to remove the 27-year-old from the firing line as the Reds went a month without a win.
The former Sunderland man was receiving plenty of criticism; with the likes of club legend Bruce Grobbelaar going as far as saying he was worse than Dracula in reference to his inability to come out of his goal and command the penalty area.
Speculation began to grow about the club making a move for former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes in January, as one potential replacement for Mignolet, with doubts being cast over his future. But credit to both Rodgers and Mignolet, who are certainly benefiting from his short spell on the sidelines.
Liverpool have put together a fantastic unbeaten run in the Premier League, with their last defeat coming back at Old Trafford in December, and some crucial saves from Mignolet have played a vital part in victories over the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham and Southampton as the race for the top four intensifies.
It’s clear to see the run of clean sheets has restored Mignolet’s confidence, which is growing week after week, as he begins to further showcase his ability that saw Liverpool stump £9 million for his services back in the summer of 2013.
Continue this until the end of the season, and question marks about his future status as the club’s first choice keeper will no doubt be put to bed. A cup final and a place in the top four would cap very good season for Liverpool, after their heartbreak last campaign and the departure of star man Luis Suarez. And in Mignolet, they have a man that can help a young side with plenty of potential kick on once again next year.
Recent performances have shown he has the ability to continue at the top level at Anfield, it’s just a case of confidence and how he reacts when things aren’t going so well.