Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has some thinking to do with regards to full-back cover for The Reds this season.
Over a year after James Milner’s arrival on a free transfer from Manchester City, he was asked to fill in at left-back for almost the full 2016/17 campaign under Klopp.
Being the ultimate professional that he is, Milner did his duties without any public complaints. He did a solid job, too, preferred ahead of the rash and unpredictable performances of Alberto Moreno.
However, when Andy Robertson took over from Moreno in the first half of the 2017/18 season, he made the spot his own and has gone on to become one of the best left-backs in the Premier League, if not Europe.
Moreno left the club this summer after his contract was not renewed. The little Spaniard has returned to his native LaLiga with Villarreal.
Along with Moreno’s departure, Nathaniel Clyne picked up an ACL injury in the friendly against Borussia Dortmund, ruling him out for at least six months. This means Liverpool are now without recognised cover for both full-back positions.
Klopp must not revert to depending on Milner on either side of the defence, though.
His dwindling pace was exposed there on the rare occasion he filled in last season – the 4-3 win at home to Crystal Palace springs to mind. Milner was sent off late in the game after Wilfried Zaha had run him ragged and forced him into two yellow-card offences.
Now 33, Milner’s presence in Klopp’s starting eleven will be confined this season. But when he is selected, Klopp must only use him in his favoured midfield role.
Milner has shown in recent years how valuable his composure and experience can be in the centre of the park, right when The Reds need to slow things down or a level-headed pro to calm the team’s nerves.
Milner’s days in either full-back position have to be over.
If Joe Gomez is the first-choice central defensive partner for Virgil van Dijk, then he can be moved over to cover Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back with Joel Matip or Dejan Lovren taking his place when necessary.
Gomez can also cover at left-back and Klopp will have Yasser Larouci back from injury by September at the latest. Larouci impressed when given the chance during the preseason friendlies so he might be able to deputise if Robertson is out for any reason.
Ki-Jana Hoever is another option to cover Alexander-Arnold on the right. The young Dutch defender made his first-team debut for Liverpool in the FA Cup defeat to Wolves back in January.
Still only 17, Klopp may not have planned on using Hoever this season but with Clyne’s injury and Milner’s old, old legs, he may have to turn to Hoever earlier than he would like.