Football: 'Don't blame Mignolet for Reds' woes'

Former Liverpool stars David James (left) and Jari Litmanen will don the colours of the Liverpool Masters in the Battle of the Masters at the National Stadium next Saturday.
Former Liverpool stars David James (left) and Jari Litmanen will don the colours of the Liverpool Masters in the Battle of the Masters at the National Stadium next Saturday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Ex-Liverpool goalkeeper James says defensive frailties are the result of poor communication

Not for the first time in his Liverpool career, first-choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has come under fire for his error-prone displays this season.

With his clanger that led to Tottenham's fourth goal, scored by Harry Kane in the 4-1 loss in the Premier League two weeks ago, the 29-year-old Belgian had set an unwanted record of more defensive errors leading to goals than any other Premier League player since his Liverpool debut in 2013.

While Mignolet kept his place and produced a clean sheet in the 3-0 win over Huddersfield last Saturday, fans and pundits are not convinced and have urged manager Jurgen Klopp to drop his first-choice goalkeeper.

Former Liverpool custodian David James, however, told The Straits Times in an interview at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport hotel yesterday that criticism of the Belgian international is "harsh" and replacing him will not do anything to solve the Reds' defensive woes.

"If you have a diamond, and you haven't got the right fixing for the ring, the diamond is going to fall off. It is not going to work," said the 47-year-old, who made 277 appearances for Liverpool from 1992 to 1999.

"When we bought Simon Mignolet (from Sunderland), he was one of the highest-rated goalkeepers in the Premier League. When we signed Loris Karius (from Mainz), he was one of highest-rated goalkeepers in the Bundesliga."

Liverpool have leaked in 16 goals from 10 EPL games this season - the worst record among the top-six teams - and James feels that the main problem lies in the communication among the defenders, an issue Klopp should iron out on the training ground.

GIVE MIGNOLET A BREAK

When you have defensive issues, the goalkeeper is going to be exposed, and it will be very difficult for the goalkeeper to do something that will not end up as a mistake.

DAVID JAMES, former Liverpool custodian, on the main reason behind the club's defensive problems.

"When you have defensive issues, the goalkeeper is going to be exposed, and it will be very difficult for the goalkeeper to do something that will not end up as a mistake," said James, who can empathise with Mignolet as he was nicknamed "Calamity James" for his blunders during his Anfield stint.

"When people are all over the place, you (as the goalkeeper) end up trying to solve the problem. I've been there myself, and that is what Simon and Loris are trying to do.

"The vulnerability from set-plays and crosses, and bad positioning of defences - those are training issues."

The former England international, along with former ex-Premier League stars Jari Litmanen, Phil Babb, Nigel Winterburn and Robert Pires, was at Changi Airport in transit for a few hours yesterday before they flew to Indonesia for the Balikpapan Masters Cup tomorrow.

The quintet will return for the Battle of the Masters tournament at the National Stadium next Saturday.

Some have questioned whether Klopp is the right man to lead the Reds, considering that his record is not much better than his predecessor Brendan Rodgers.

Litmanen, who played for Liverpool between 2001 and 2002, said "something" is missing from the current side but he backs Klopp to get things right.

"I thought Klopp was a good choice and I still think he is a good manager for Liverpool. It's not just about the manager, it's also up to the players (to perform)," said the 46-year-old Finn.

Tickets for the Battle of the Masters are available from $20, at www.sportshubtix.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2017, with the headline ''Don't blame Mignolet for reds' woes''. Print Edition | Subscribe