Just six points currently separate 17th from 10th in the Premier League, and among the club’s involved there is a wide range of trajectories on display. Some, like Newcastle United and Southampton seem to looking upwards, perhaps hoping to even challenge for a top half finish, whilst others are looking warily below them, fearful that a late Wigan surge could drag them into a relegation battle.
One of those sides is Sunderland, with Martin O’Neill’s team unable to pick up three points at home to Norwich at the weekend despite facing only ten men for two thirds of the match. That result extended Sunderland’s winless run to seven matches, and with Wigan only four points behind with a game in hand, there is now real concern amongst the club’s fans that they could finish in the bottom three.
However despite all this, one man has consistently impressed for the Black Cats all season. Simon Mignolet has frequently been mentioned as a candidate for the best keeper in the league this season, and accordingly there has been plenty of speculation about where he might end up next season if Sunderland are relegated.
Manchester United had been mentioned as a possible destination, but David De Gea now seems more established in their line-up, and it is unlikely they will be replacing him come the summer. Arsenal and Liverpool have also both been mooted, and a case could be made that both could use a keeper of Mignolet’s quality.
Arsenal have relied on Wojiech Szczesny for most of this season, but the Polish keeper has recently been replaced by his compatriot Lukasz Fabianski. Both can be described as below the standard Arsenal require, and Mignolet could be a definite target come the summer.
Liverpool’s Pepe Reina has been blighted by injuries of late, but he has had a particularly inconsistent season even when fit. Brad Jones does not look up to scratch as a replacement, so they would do well to bring in Mignolet at the end of the season.
Even if Sunderland do stay up, there will be interest in Mignolet from the biggest sides in the league. With the Belgian keeper’s agent previously suggesting his charge could leave for a bigger club at some stage, Martin O’Neil could well struggle to keeper hold of Mignolet this summer whatever happens in the next couple of months.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald