After shattering records for fun during a season of serene progress, Liverpool have suddenly stumbled and have lost momentum. Any improbable dreams of a treble are over.
If there is one aspect of Liverpool’s game that has come under criticism in recent weeks it has been the lack of creativity and control from the team’s usually faultless midfield trident.
With Jordan Henderson currently injured following a hamstring injury against Atletico Madrid, there has been a glaringly apparent lack of leadership and authority in the club captain’s absence.
Fabinho is a player who has been particularly concerning since returning from an ankle injury sustained in November. The Brazilian has failed dramatically to step up in his skipper’s sabbatical and his drop off from the performances at the start of the season have been stark.
He just hasn’t looked the same player since returning in January after two months out following ligament damage. Usually so reliable at sniffing out danger and acting as Liverpool’s defensive shield, he has faltered drastically in both of the Reds’ previous two defeats.
With Jurgen Klopp’s back-line too often exposed in recent matches, a tactical tweak could be required for Liverpool’s clash with AFC Bournemouth at the weekend. With Henderson still absent, introducing the man next in line for the captaincy could be a stroke of genius from the German manager ahead of Saturday’s return to Anfield.
Milner came on late against Chelsea and in the short time he was on the pitch Liverpool’s only current PL-winner showcased the nastier side to Liverpool’s game that had been missing.
When Pedro looked to break on the counter-attack with limited Reds players struggling to track back, it was the former England international who took matters into his own hands and sacrificed himself for the team – hacking the Spaniard down and meriting a booking.
Having missed the majority of 2020 following a muscle injury against Everton in January, Milner has been patiently waiting for a run-in-the-team and following a few uninspiring performances from Liverpool’s midfield triumvirate, it could be the ideal blend of experience and a streetwise mentality needed to get the club back on track.
There hasn’t been a semblance of control since Henderson was forced off in the Spanish capital and Milner is a player who will uphold the standards Klopp demands from a team still in the hunt for a European and domestic double.
With Atletico on the horizon, it could give Fabinho the injection of tempo needed if Liverpool are to conjure up another Champions League comeback under the light at Anfield next week.