Damon Savenelli re-evaluates James Milner’s progress at left-back since being thrust there due to Alberto Moreno’s ineptitude.
I think it is safe to say that it is a great time to be a Red. After Saturday’s 5-1 thumping of Hull City, Liverpool fans have not had much to complain about. The team as a whole is playing extremely well and Jurgen Klopp’s style of football has really started to reveal itself.
Liverpool has accumulated 13 points out of 18 and has also scored the second highest amount of goals with 16, second only to Manchester City (18). The defence has also not been too shabby, allowing nine goals in six games.
In my opinion, one of the most surprising parts of this young EPL season has been how well James Milner has played at left back. With Klopp opting not to buy a left back during the summer transfer window, he has instead used James Milner as a makeshift left back. With the only other option being error-prone Alberto Moreno, Klopp’s decision drew sharp criticism.
Milner’s natural position is as a midfielder, attacking midfield to be more specific. The former Manchester City man has previously stated his dissatisfaction at being played out of position and was often times deployed as a winger under former manager, Brendan Rodgers. With the number 7 being seen as the “workhorse” of the squad, it can be assumed that Klopp thought he would be able to handle being played out of position.
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Thus far, Milner has been a viable replacement. In his brief spell at fullback, Milner has definitely shown more defensive capabilities than Alberto Moreno. Here are some of the Englishman’s stats from his five Premier League games courtesy of WhoScored.com: 3 goals, 1 assist, 2.4 key passes, 2.2 tackles, 2.8 clearances, and 88% pass completion. Decent numbers for a man being played out of position.
Numbers are not everything, though. In the most recent game against Hull, Milner was lively. He made good runs down the left-hand side of the field and was also able to whip in a few decent crosses. He also showed his ability to take on defenders, taking on two or three defenders at once. He even nutmegged a Hull defender.
Defensively, Milner was just as good. He made some pretty significant tackles, made a few clearances, and positioned himself well. He did, however, concede the corner that the visitors scored from but was otherwise faultless.
Aside from a few minor defensive errors, Milner has had a decent start to the season. This raises one major question: will Jurgen Klopp look to bring in a left back in January? I think that as good as James Milner has been, the answer to that question has to be yes.
As reliable as Milner has been, I can not see him as a long-term option. With the untrustworthy Alberto Moreno on the bench, and Milner turning 31 this January, Klopp will look to bring in a long-term solution to his left back dilemma. Let us not forget that Joe Gomez and Jon Flanagan are both capable of playing left back.
Will a new full-back be brought in during the next transfer window, or will Klopp continue to rely on James Milner? We will just have to wait and see.