After countless appearances for Liverpool in the EPL, Pepe Reina’s exit to Napoli looks set to trigger a fierce battle for the starting spot in the six-yard box. Reina’s loan deal will almost certainly end his long association with the Reds in favor of a possible return to his beloved Barcelona. His exit now presents a wonderful opportunity for Aussie Brad Jones to cement his spot in the starting eleven. The only impediment standing between him and a consistent 90 minutes of game time is the arrival of Simon Mignolet from Sunderland.
Mignolet’s impressive stats speak for themselves and he also enjoys the public endorsement from Manager Brendan Rogers who rates him as “One of the top keepers in the League.” In 2012-13 he played in every minute of every game for the “Black Cats” a feat only matched by Joe Hart, Asmir Begovic and Jussi Jaaskelainen. Jones was firmly entrenched on the comfortably heated bench seats and managed just seven starting appearances, but did impress in recording a healthy average of 70 minutes between goals conceded. For Brendan Rogers, he is in the enviable position of having two world-class keepers at the peak of their powers in the same dressing room. The real worry for Rogers isn’t his keeping roster but the continuing uncertainty surrounding Luis Suárez’s future at the club.
This piece was supposed to focus solely on the keepers so I will leave the talk of strikers and transfer talk where it belongs, deep into the abyss of a football website homepage. Keepers may spend a majority of their time alone in the football wilderness on the pitch, but their efforts, skill and heroics at the back warrant far more attention than a Clangers highlights package.
Jones was lucky enough to play a full match in Liverpool’s recent clash with A-League side Melbourne Victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of a record 95,446 passionate fans of the round ball. A two-nil win and clean sheet was his reward after completing some memorable saves back on home soil. Mignolet is known for his upfront and aggressive keeping style and is instrumental in shutting down the attacking advances of opposition forwards. The biggest adjustment for Mignolet will be the constant comparisons drawn with Reina and the in depth microscopic analysis that comes with his career defining move to one of the world’s most loved and respected clubs.
This season is a huge test for Liverpool FC and more importantly Rogers. For a club so steeped in trophy and ladder success, fans have placed their trust in a manager they think has the balance of youth and experience right. Unfortunately in the cut throat world of the EPL it will come down to Champions League qualification as evidenced by the Kenny Dalglish exit despite him delivering the League Cup and an FA Cup final berth during his tenure as manager.
For the time being Jones will play a second fiddle role for Mignolet due to the sheer weight of minutes played coupled with his international experience. That said Jones has often been thrown into the cauldron at short notice with great success. As the long season rolls onwards and if form wanes in the Mignolet corner, the choice could be an easy one for Rogers. As a totally unbiased Australian, I would love to see the likeable Jones get more time on the pitch as the recruitment process continues to find the ultimate replacement for the ever reliable Mark Schwarzer when the sun sets on the World Cup in Brazil. Given the large pool of local and international based goalkeeping talent on offer, the decision may prove much tougher to work through than a cheap second-rate cut of steak.