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Liverpool's Simon Mignolet says he's no longer 'over-thinking' matters

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has credited his fiancée with helping to turn his season around.

Mignolet was dropped in December after a series of below-par performances, with manager Brendan Rodgers saying he would be out of the side for "an indefinite period." But he was back playing within a fortnight, coming on as a substitute at Burnley on Dec. 26 after Brad Jones picked up a thigh injury.

Mignolet has been ever-present since then, and has kept clean sheets in five of his last 10 appearances. But he puts his upturn in form down to long-term girlfriend Jasmien Claes, who told him after his return to the side that he was "over-thinking" his game.

Claes wondered if the Belgium international was making errors because he was taking too long to make decisions in games.

There was a key incident during Liverpool's 1-0 win at Burnley that prompted the change in approach, when Mignolet took so long to think about what to do with a back pass, that he allowed the ball to run out of play for a corner.

The goalkeeper told British national newspapers: "It was Boxing Day, and so the family were here. After the game, my missus and I were having dinner. And she said to me: 'Simon, are you sometimes over-thinking stuff?' Those were her words to me.

"At the time, I didn't really give a response. But the next day, I went into training, and we analysed the game, and went through that particular moment, and I got the same response from the coaching staff.

"So we were thinking about what we could do to eradicate this. What was actually happening during that game was that -- probably because of all the criticism and the things that had happened before -- I was always looking to find the best possible solution in a game.

"I was thinking about various things I could do, such as trying to find a player with a pass, and I forgot that the worst solution was to give a corner away, and that's funny when you think about it.

"So we said: 'Look, we have to change this.' What we tried to do after that was make sure that rather than thinking, I was acting and playing my natural game. Play what you see, because actually you don't have that time to think.

"Sometimes, it's better to make the worst possible decision, but to make the decision quickly, rather than to see what's happening.

"So we tried to change that and make sure that I acted at making decisions. We made sure that I acted, was more decisive and more commanding, and ever since, that's come along really well. So I'm very pleased with what we changed after the Burnley game."

Mignolet feels that his partner's knowledge of his analytical personality was key to working out how to improve his game.

He said: "We've been together since before I was a football player. She's known me through thick and thin. She also knows my personal character, and that's probably why she said that.

"She knows that, in my private life, I won't wake up and go and buy myself a Ferrari, which some football players might do.

"I've always been analytical when I make a decision, in my private life, and I do over-think things. That's maybe something that, because it was in my character, came into my game a bit.

"In certain moments, that's good, because if you look back to my disciplinary record, that's really good -- and that's probably also because I don't make stupid decisions on the pitch. It goes both ways.

"But then on the other side, when you have to make a quick decision, then there is no time to over-think. There is no time to think, 'I have to do this' or 'I have to do that'. You have to find the right balance."

Mignolet also received advice from leading sports psychiatrist Steve Peters, who was brought in to work part-time at Liverpool by manager Brendan Rodgers after helping the British Olympic cycling team and five-time snooker world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan achieve success.

The keeper said: "He came into the picture there, together with the head of performance and the goalie coach, when we spoke about that.

"It's something that's in your mind, and he's the expert in that, so he came into the picture to help me sort that out and do certain things before the game.

"Its helped me as well on crosses and high balls in, when it comes to making the split-second decision, and on coming out of the box and clearing balls, back passes as well. So there are a few areas where it has worked well."

Mignolet came in for heavy criticism during the first half of the season, and was described as being "worse than Dracula" by former Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar -- a reference to an old joke about Bram Stoker's vampire character being scared of crosses.

Liverpool's current first-choice keeper, though, insists he has no hard feelings towards one of his most high-profile predecessors.

He said: "I'm not really bothered if it's unfair or not. From all the criticism that I've had and all the things that have been said, you pick the things that you can take on board, and you pick the things that you leave alone."

Asked if he would shake Grobbelaar's hand if he saw him at Anfield, the 26-year-old said: "Yeah, of course. I appreciate what he's done for the club. He's been a legend his whole life. He's won major trophies for Liverpool. I will respect him for that.

"I look up to all the old goalkeepers, and I have respect for every single goalkeeper who has done the job, because I know what the job is."