A great team has ample strength in depth within the squad. Players require competition in order to keep their wits about them, fearful that a drop in form could see them lose their place in the starting XI. Sufficient quality all across the park helps the top teams compete on multiple fronts and should injuries occur, there is an adequate stand-in at the ready.
The problem with this, however, is keeping every player happy. If one feels he is good enough to start regularly, yet is not gaining the minutes he believes he deserves, the player in question will likely request a move away from the club in order to gain first-team action. Nevertheless, with Europe's elite sometimes playing upwards of 60 games a season, it's likely each member of the playing squad will have the chance to showcase his talents.
As the new campaign rolls around, Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid, amongst others, have spent big in order to assert their dominance. Importantly, though, each has two top goalkeepers battling for one place. The fight in Chelsea's goal is perhaps the most noteworthy at present, with Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois vying for the number one spot at Stamford Bridge.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have brought in David Ospina to challenge Wojciech Szczesny, Marc-André ter Stegen and Claudio Bravo are expected to compete for one spot at Barcelona, while Keylor Navas should have adequate competition in the form of Iker Casillas and Diego López at Real Madrid. On Merseyside, Liverpool could have had themselves their own goalkeeper battle ahead of an important season in which they look to follow up a second place finish. Simon Mignolet was largely unopposed in his debut campaign at Anfield, with Brendan Rodgers sending Pepe Reina on loan to Napoli, where the Spaniard was reunited with former Reds manager Rafa Benitez.
Reina failed to register a pre-season appearance for Liverpool in recent weeks, with Rodgers favouring either current number one Mignolet or deputy Brad Jones in goal. Liverpool return to the Champions League for the first time since 2009 and will be fighting on four fronts as the season progresses, so Rodgers needs players of the highest standard available to him.
If Mignolet is suspended or succumbs to injury, Jones will be the player to step in. The Australian made just 3 appearances for Liverpool last season, each of which came in the FA Cup, but the 32-year-old appeared shaky between the sticks and it goes without saying the Merseysiders need a better backup for Mignolet.
They did have one in the form of Reina, but he has since signed for Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Recent reports suggested Reina asked Liverpool to terminate his contract so he could find himself a new club. Italian duo Napoli and Milan had shown an interest, but the goalkeeper has linked up with former Barcelona teammate Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena, when perhaps Rodgers should have worked harder to keep the Spaniard on Merseyside.
One can hardly blame a host of Europe's top clubs for wanting to sign Reina. Of all goalkeepers to make at least 5 Serie A appearances last season, only Juventus stalwart Gianluigi Buffon (81.9%) boasted a better save success rate than Reina (79.1%). The Spain international was vital to the Partenopei's 3rd-place finish and Benitez would have liked to have had the goalkeeper available to him in this seasons' Champions League campaign.
Comparatively, Mignolet's save success in the Premier League last term (70.4%) fell short of Reina's and it's questionable whether this return is good enough for a team of Liverpool's stature. Granted, the Belgian faced more shots (152) than Reina (134) in their respective league last season, but Mignolet's rollercoaster form in goal saw Liverpool ship 50 league goals, a figure too high for a club that harbours title aspirations. Reina (6.90) also had a better WhoScored rating than Mignolet (6.69) in their respective leagues last season, reflecting how well the Spaniard performed in Italy.
Rodgers may have felt inclinced to drop Mignolet due to a slump in form had he had a decent backup shotstopper. The Liverpool boss clearly does not trust Jones in goal having called on him just seven times in the Premier League since taking over in 2012. Dropping a player out of form, regardless of position, can benefit the team, as we saw with the example of Joe Hart last season. The England number one committed a catastrophic error that led to a late Chelsea winner in City's 2-1 defeat to the Blues last season, which culminated in Citizens manager Manuel Pellegrini benching Hart.
Costel Pantilimon may not be the most reliable goalkeeper in the game, but Pellegrini clearly felt Hart needed a spell on the sidelines to give him the wake up call he required and for seven league games last season, Pantilimon was City's number one. Hart's standards dropping is likely to have convinced Pellegrini to sign Willy Caballero from Malaga this summer in order to provide decent competition for the England goalkeeper and with the amount of games City are expected to play, the team are stronger for it.
Liverpool, however, won't be afforded such a luxury and should Mignolet's performance levels drop, Rodgers will either be forced to persist with a goalkeeper out of form or one who is not good enough for Liverpool. Reina may be prone to the odd mistake, but the experienced shot stopper is undoubtedly a sturdier number two than Jones. Mignolet and Reina boast a similar goalkeeping style, so the transition in changing between the duo would be smoother than Jones coming into the side, especially with the Reds defenders already aware of Reina's goalkeeping ability.
Reina quite clearly could have had a part to play at Anfield in the upcoming campaign had Rodgers opted against selling him. Every great team needs quality personnel in all positions and the goalkeeper is no different. Mignolet did not miss a minute for Liverpool in the Premier League last season, but what's to say he will not pick up an injury on the first day after the transfer window closes? Jones is his current backup, but it's fair to say the former Middlesbrough trainee is not good enough for Liverpool, while Reina would have provided suitable competition for Mignolet. He may not have been used in pre-season, but it would have been in Rodgers' best interests to have kept Reina, especially given the number of games Liverpool will face this season.
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