Simon Mignolet was down in the dumps on Boxing Day. Even though Liverpool had beaten Burnley 1-0 in a tough game away at Turf Moor, another high profile lapse in concentration had resulted in the goalkeeper waiting too long to kick a simple back pass and allowing it to go out of play.
The turnaround he has experienced since then has been nothing short of remarkable. The Belgian has been more composed than ever before in his short Liverpool career, and gives a sense of calm to the defence that seemed impossible a few months back. Mignolet has kept four clean sheets in his last give league games, matching the number in the first 21 games of this season.
Mignolet reveals the how he became mentally stronger: “I played half-decent, came for some crosses, but what happened in that game changed a lot of what’s happened since. It was in the first half when I got closed down on a back pass. It was Boxing Day, my family were over here, and my missus and everyone were having dinner when she said: ‘Simon, are you sometimes over-thinking stuff?’
“Those were her words. I didn’t really give a response at the time. She knows when to speak to me about football and when to leave me alone. The next day I went into training and as we were analysing the game the coaching staff gave me the same words.”
“That was the trigger in my mind that we had to say ‘Look, we have to sort this out’. Jasmien comes to every single game and follows it. We’ve been together since before I was a footballer and she knows me better than anyone, my character, that’s why she said it.”
“She knows in my private life I am not the sort of person who will wake up and go and buy myself a Ferrari, which some people might do. I am maybe over the top in that sense. It comes from my education, how I have been brought up by my parents. I have always tended to over-think things and that had come into my game. That’s good in certain moments but not when you have to make a quick decision.”
“I was basically thinking too much over what was best to do and losing time rather than playing my natural game. I was always looking to find the best possible solution in situations, the right player to pass to, thinking ‘you could do this, you could do that,’ and was forgetting what was the worst solution, like giving away the corner at Burnley. So I made the decision that rather than thinking too much I would be more decisive and commanding and ever since then it has gone very well.”
Renowned sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters was consulted immediately as Mignolet tells, “He came into the picture to help me do certain things before a game. It has helped me especially on high balls coming into the box, on crosses, making a split decision coming out of the box, clearing balls and back passes. There are some things that are going better than before.”
“I did not want to speak up too early because I am not one who likes to speak,” Mignolet . “I wanted to wait for a few performances to talk about it and I think this moment is right to speak up. I am my own biggest critic. After every game I analyse my performance with the goalkeeping coach in a very critical manner. There is certain criticism you will take on board and other things that do not affect you. You cannot look too far into that because it can destruct you in a certain way.”
“I remember playing in front of 500 people in the second division in Belgium and I prefer to play under the pressure of a Champions League game against Real Madrid at Anfield.”