Could James Milner be the best right back available to Jurgen Klopp?

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James Milner of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Middlesbrough at Anfield on May 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England.
All rights reserved by Jan Kruger/Getty Images Europe

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.

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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.”

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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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Good shout, and one that hadn’t even crossed my mind. As you rightly say, the longer Clyne is absent the better he becomes in fans minds, and despite the occasional good 45 minutes the trials and tribulations of the two youngsters Alexander-Arnold and Joe “Potential Red Card” Gomez have done nothing to assuage those feelings.
    The absence of both Clyne and Milner from both full-back positions seems to be hindering the team, and going slightly off-topic here, the sale of Lucas following the recent revelations about Lovren’s long standing use of painkillers further undermines Klopp’s recruitment policy and simply highlights the paucity of resources the club currently has in defence.
    Robertson has looked decent whenever he has played, excellent crosses into the box and looks to have a bit more about him regarding his defensive duties when compared to Moreno, but as we’re not privy as to what goes on in training we must be missing something. In my humblest of opinions, Milner should still be playing left-back despite his having to cut back to his right foot to cross, because he offers the team stability and gives the likes of Coutinho and Mane licence to attack and stay forward as he is tactically astute enough to cover them and not leave gaping holes on the left flank.
    In Clyne’s absence and the continued struggles of the youngsters, I would make an argument for either Oxlade-Chamberlain or Wijnaldum for right-back, Gini in particular has been poor this season and has a tendency to disappear for large periods of a game, especially when we’ve been under the cosh away from home so maybe a more limited role would help him. Oxlade-Chamberlain has played as a wing-back for Arsenal and has the engine to get up and down all day, he may not like it as he stated he was leaving to play midfield, however, even the great Stevie G played right back from time to time, most famously in the 2005 CL Final, so if he wants to play in the first eleven he may just have to suck it up for a while.

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