Simon Mignolet – Liverpool’s Let Down?

Every time Liverpool were on TV last season, I’d spend the entire game wondering what possessed them to sign a goalkeeper like Simon Mignolet. There was nothing he did that made me think he would ever be a decent ‘keeper. It wasn’t just the fact he’s dreadful, it was that Liverpool let Jose Reina leave and thought bringing in Mignolet as a replacement was a good idea. Liverpool, and Jurgen Klopp’s, first signing of the new season is Loris Karius, the Mainz 05 ‘keeper – a move that indicates Klopp was just as unhappy with Mignolet as I was.

To try and show Mignolet’s lack of quality as a Premier League goalkeeper I’ve created some radar charts. Now, as I haven’t had the opportunity to collect any data myself this season, I’ve had to scrape some data from online sources. Yes, I know they’re unreliable. Yes, I know you’re all shaking your heads wondering why I’m doing this, but bear with me…

It’s about the process of making the radar charts, and how they can be used if/when I am able to produce some reliable data. There are a few issues with creating radar charts in Excel, you can’t change the scale for each ‘spoke’ and the image itself is a little bit ‘bland’. To get around these issues I firstly redrew the background, and imported it into Excel. After that, I found the average percentage the opposition had and calculated what the values would have been if the opposition had 100% possession. That way you can compare goalkeepers against each other, otherwise someone like Petr Cech would appear to be a ‘lesser player’ because he’s less busy than other goalkeepers. It’s an imperfect solution, but it’s better than nothing.

The only statistic to be unchanged was the saves per goal ratio, this is because that isn’t reliant on possession.

After that, to ensure that all the data were scaled in the right way I calculated the mean and standard deviation for each Performance Indicator, and then found three standard deviations above the mean. I then used that figure and found the percentage of it for each individual statistic. From that, I then inverted the ‘Goals Conceded’ data (basically, I subtracted the value from 100); this means that a higher the peak in the radars below is better than a lower peak. It sounds weird, I know, but it works!

Mignolet vs Lloris

Above is the radar chart for Mignolet plotted against Hugo Lloris. Note the extent to which Lloris makes more saves (and the position those saves came in), and how many more saves per goal he makes. You could also make a case for Lloris being more dominant in his area than Mignolet by the higher frequency of punches he makes.

Mignolet vs Schmeichel

Compared to Kasper Schmeichel, there’s a huge difference in the number of catches Schmeichel makes compared to Mignolet. Again, this suggests that Mignolet isn’t particularly dominant in the air. Schmeichel also makes a high proportion of his saves in the 6 Yard Box, which could infer that Schmeichel’s reactions are superior to Mignolet’s as saves in that area are likely to be from close range shots – although that’s purely speculation at this point.

Mignolet vs Mannone

Vito Mannone, Sunderland’s goalkeeper, is one of the best keepers in the league according to the statistics I’ve used. Despite adjusting the data for possession, he comes out on top against almost all of the ‘keepers in the Premier League for saves and saves per goal. He’s also dominant in his box, and comes out to catch the ball often. Compared to Mignolet, Mannone is a beast.

All of that helps show why I don’t rate Simon Mignolet, but it’s also pertinent to mention – again – the fact that the data used here is scraped from the Internet and cannot be controlled for reliability. Take it with a pinch of salt! But now we have to move on to Karius and how he compares to Mignolet.

Mignolet vs Karius.png

Karius, using the radar chart above, looks to be a better shot stopper than Mignolet. His numbers are all higher, and he has a much better shots per goal ratio than Mignolet. However, he has lower scores for catches and punches, which could suggest that he is even less dominant in his area than Mignolet – which is a worry. We all saw David de Gea’s first few seasons in the Premier League, when he struggled to cope with the physicality in the penalty area.

Foreign goalkeepers need the time to become accustomed to the Premier League, and it takes more than simply time in the gym to improve. Karius, at 22, has plenty of time to learn and improve and he could well be Liverpool’s number 1 for years to come – but don’t be surprised if teams put in crosses that force him into action and he ends up having similar struggles to de Gea.

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