Dave Davis asks whether or not Nathaniel Clyne’s best replacement is James Milner as the English fullback continues to miss Liverpool’s season through injury.
Which current member of the Liverpool squad has played for their country at right back in a major tournament? Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez have both played that position for the U21s, but never in a competitive senior tournament. As Liverpool’s defensive struggles continue, it may be that the answer is only a slight variation on last season.
James Milner accumulated sixty-one England caps before his retirement last season. It’s often forgotten that Liverpool’s vice-captain played in World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 at right-back for his country. It may not be the former City man’s favourite position, but it may be a solution that’s needed right now.
Nathaniel Clyne’s value to the current team only seems to increase with every passing week he spends on the sidelines. Having been panned by many Reds for his end product, it’s at the other end of the pitch where solidity is needed right now. Alexander-Arnold and Gomez have looked like what they are at this stage, willing with potential, but inconsistent at times. Gomez has already seen red in the Champions League and gotten away with a few mistakes already, whilst Trent’s crossing hasn’t disguised a defensive inexperience.
Klopp was happy to move Milner to left back last season and the 31-year-old was happy to oblige, despite it not being his favoured position.
On the positional change, the Englishman said, “It’s a big change but I’ve always tried to learn throughout my career and I’ve played a lot of positions anyway, so it’s just trying to do the job as well as you can. But it’s about whatever is best for the team. Ultimately I just want to be out there playing games and contributing.”
In the current set-up, Milner finds himself behind Henderson, Wijnaldum and Can in the central midfield race. Indeed, when Lallana returns and with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s arrival he may find it even more difficult to make the first XI. At 31, it’s clear that Milner wants to be playing and the solution for all might be quite simple.
The criticism was often that he checked back in and wasn’t able to deliver crosses first time. That shouldn’t be an issue at right-back as wouldn’t Milner’s willingness to give it a go. Experience and a cool head might just be what’s needed at the back right now. If Klopp looks within he may find that he has an option already.