When Liverpool brought James Milner on a free transfer from Manchester City in the summer many people’s eyebrows were raised, including some Liverpool supporters as well. Many people thought Liverpool were signing a player that works hard, versatile and a professional player but questions were asked if he had the end product required to be a success at Liverpool, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Most Liverpool supporters, including me, thought that he would be a shrewd signing as we needed the experience in our team and Milner has that in abundance during his time at Leeds, Swindon, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Manchester City, but he has been more than just a experienced player he has taken over the mantle as one of the main leaders in the dressing room and on the pitch. Brendan Rodgers gave the vice captaincy to Milner when he was signed and it has proved to be a good decision from our former manager. With Jordan Henderson been missing for the majority of the season Milner has been our main captain this season and has rarely missed a game this season.
It was claimed when we signed Milner that he would only sign for the club if he were to be played in central midfield, but since Klopp has taken over he has mainly played on the right or the left of the three advanced midfielders that play behind the striker and this is the position where he has blossomed, His work rate is utilised well on the wing as he tracks back and helps out his fullback as well as producing some fantastic balls into the box and letting the fullbacks overlap him with the 30 year old providing good cover. This is where he has mainly featured but he has also played in the centre of midfield like he did against Everton and Borussia Dortmund recently. With Henderson’s and Can’s injury this is the position where he will likely most be utilised now. Klopp also played Milner right back in one game this season and he showed how versatile he is by putting in a good shift at right back and further showing how useful to Klopp he is.
You may be asking that this is what Liverpool fans expected when we signed Milner but he does all of the above and this season alone he has shown how, even at 30, he has learned so much this season especially from Jurgen Klopp who has given Milner an extra edge this season.
The England international has 7 goals in all competitions this season for the Reds and 5 goals coming in the Premier League. Milner scored just 18 goals in 203 appearances for Man City, with 8 of them coming in his last season. His career best goal tally came when he was at Aston in the 2009-10 season and he scored 12 goals in all competitions so he has proven in his career that he has never been a goal scorer but in the last two season he has improved this side of his game and has shown a real maturity to his game to still be improved certain aspects of his game.
James Milner has silenced his doubters
It’s his creative statistics where he has impressed this season the most. Since the turn of the year he has assisted 11 goals in all competitions, that’s three more than the much praised Payet, four more than the impressive Spurs midfielder Alli, five more than Chelsea striker Diego Costa and Spurs midfielder Christian Erikson and a huge nine more than the alleged assist king Mesut Ozil. I am not saying he is more creative than these kinds of players but it shows how good he has been for Liverpool this season to be above those kind of players. Only two players have more assists than James Milner now, Mesut Ozil with 18 and Christian Erikson with 12, and he has more assists than the likes of Payet and De Bruyne.
Milner has created more chances and has played more key passes than our more recognized creative players in the side Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Fermino, having played less than Fermino but more than Coutinho, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge and even Christian Benteke earlier in the season have all benefited from MIlners crosses from open play and has given Liverpool another option to score goals rather than be playing the ball through the centre so it gives the Reds another dimension and makes us less predictable to play against.
Milner had a ‘boring’ reputation when he signed for Liverpool, where there is even a twitter account called ‘boring James Milner’. He is quickly losing this reputation as he has become a vital part of the Liverpool side but one thing most Liverpool fans agree on are his corners need improvement as it is ‘boring’ to see every Liverpool corner hit the first man or be played short but he has shown he likes to prove his doubters wrong and hopefully he can keep up this form for the rest of the season.