James Milner was spotted bellowing instructions at Liverpool teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold during Saturday’s draw with Aston Villa.
The game was Milner’s last as a Reds player at Anfield. As he often does these days, the 37-year-old started the match on the Liverpool bench. But according to The Athletic, that didn’t stop him from being as involved as ever.
They report that Milner was screaming at Alexander-Arnold to ‘get on that ______ ball’ with the Reds 1-0 down and chasing the game.
Ever the leader on and off the pitch, it’s this kind of animated, no-nonsense direction that will be sorely missed at Anfield next season.
Of course, Milner did eventually get on the pitch, too. Tellingly, The Athletic report that having played a small part in the build-up to Roberto Firmino’s equaliser, the Yorskhireman didn’t celebrate the goal. Instead, he is said to have ‘trudged back into his own half and got on with business.’ As ever it was.
Liverpool set to lose Milner leadership
So much has been said and written about James Milner’s leadership qualities. It feels impossible to add any more to that discourse.
But little moments like the one described here truly are what make him so valuable. It isn’t just about shouting any old thing. Any other player in the squad could shout at Trent in the same manner, many of them possibly do.
Rather, it’s the fact that Milner is listened to. His words carry enormous weight with his teammates. It could be Jurgen Klopp or Pep Lijnders bellowing at Trent, the feeling would be almost the same.
The degree to which Liverpool will miss this next season cannot really be measured. After such a tricky campaign, the odds will be in favour of the Reds bettering their form during 2023/24. As a result, some will likely to suggest that Milner is barely missed at all.
But it’s in those moments where you just need an extra lift, those big, big moments where the team pulls through a difficult game.
Those are the ones where we’ll really find out Milner’s true influence on his peers.
For someone like Alexander-Arnold in particular, he may feel that absence more than he might expect. Milner has been at the club ever since he broke into the first team. To go from having that experience to draw on, to suddenly not having it at all might be a shock. Someone’s going to have to step up.