Liverpool are looking to truly rebuild their squad this second season under Brendan Rodgers. After a major clear out last summer, the club this year now are starting to fill in the depth chart for their manager thanks to the amount of deals the club have completed as of Jun. 29, 2013.
Along the way to their new team, upgrades have looked to be needed in several areas. One such area is between the sticks as Pepe Reina, while a world class talent at his best, has not been the same Reina that was at the top of his form between 2005-10.
Last season Reina made 31 first team appearances for Liverpool with 14 clean sheets in the English Premier League. Two better than last season and equal to his results from 2010-11. However, prior to the last few seasons he averaged 19 per season in the league. Overall across all competitions he had averaged 25.
Reina will turn 31 in August and the keeper unfortunately that is one of the best in the club’s history continues to be on a steady decline. Many could try to pass blame on the defense, but that would not be a fair shake for the club, nor would be trying to blame such moves as the sale of Javier Mascherano or other transfers away from the club.
All in all, Reina has done the opposite of what many world class keepers have done. Many keepers age into their career like a fine wine and while their physical attributes may start to wane, their mental ability to read the game and make adjustments is always increasing and striking the balance between skill and knowledge.
With Reina on the fast track to being a backup for Liverpool, as he already is for Spain, the arrival of 25-year-old Belgian international Simon Mignolet is a signaling flag that the changing of the rear guard is in progress.
Brendan Rodgers was quoted by ESPN.co.uk via the Daily Express that he is not going to part ways with Reina:
“One of the things we’re trying to build is a competitive squad. Our squad was very thin last year. It’s very important we have competition in every position and that wasn’t always the case.
Pepe and I went out for a meal a couple of months before the end of the season and I told him exactly what we were going to do, which was to provide real competition in that area.
Pepe is a fantastic goalkeeper but Simon Mignolet is a player that has done really well. He’s also part of an emerging Belgium squad that has come into a golden era. Pepe is a very committed man and an outstanding goalkeeper.”
Rodgers praise of Mignolet is well deserved. The Belgian keeper was the brightest player on the pitch for Sunderland last season. He earned 11 clean sheets in 38 appearances for the Black Cats during a season that saw them barely notch survival for next year.
With an average of 3.26 saves per match, Mignolet eclipsed Reina’s average of 1.35 and again dominated the Spaniard in saves per goal ratio 2.48 to 1.27. However, if you continue to consult that Squawka stats for both Reina and his newly arrived squad mate Mignolet, the young Belgian is a true threat to the Spaniard.
Mignolet is a better keeper in the box with a higher punch rate percentage as well as being better at hanging onto a loose ball. The stats could go on and on in favor of the Belgian, but he still has to earn his keep and force Rodgers to choose him over the veteran.
To make a long story short, he may not verbally be Liverpool’s new number one choice, but the stat sheet all day long points to him being the keeper that could make those seven to ten key saves that Reina dose not. A truth that could mean a massive difference in the points total for the coming campaign.
Mignolet is a better fit for the rebuilding Liverpool squad because he not only is in the prime of his growth as a keeper, but he is in the prime of his youth as well. Rodgers and Fenway Sports group are building a side that will develop their talent into a group that will challenge on all fronts for years to come and unfortunately for Pepe Reina, his time looks to be over at Anfield.