As far as acquired monikers go, “boring” is not the kind of tag you’d want to be associated with. For James Milner, however, the word brings on a whole new meaning as it roughly translates to consistency when one follows his games. For Milner, being “boring” is a part of his persona now but it only means that he is extremely dependable in times of crisis.
This summer transfer window, perhaps the one position that supporters were keen on signing a player was that of a competent left-back. After an abysmal result in the Europa League final against Sevilla, the person who came under the most amount of critical scrutiny was Alberto Moreno. His performance in the second half of the game left a lot to be desired. Liverpool legends and fans around the world waited for manager Jurgen Klopp to sign a replacement or even someone who would create competition for Moreno. That, however, was not to be. Brad Smith was sold and speculations surrounding the possible signings of Jonas Hector, Ben Chilwell, and Ricardo Rodriguez came to nothing. Surely, in such circumstances, Moreno’s place as a second rate left back was all but cemented in the team. But Klopp, it seems, was being smart with the economic spending in the transfer window.
In the pre-season friendly against Chelsea, Milner came off the bench to replace Connor Randall in this position. For once, Milner portrayed exactly why he was one of the best utility players in the Premier League at present. With good ball control and an ability to create substantial openings, his versatility at playing right-back shows him to be a viable choice this season.
With signings like Sadio Mane, Milner’s place as an attacking midfielder seems unlikely. The 30-year old vice-captain might be employed as a fullback instead. Considering that he has all the qualities of a good, competent fullback, this role might suit him perfectly.
He is rarely injured, his physical fitness is at its peak always, he has the ability to perform well on both the left and the right positions and who can ignore his fantastic right-footed crosses. If there is anything that is holding him back from being held in higher regard, it probably is his lack of speed and his hesitation when it comes to taking well-calculated risks. That is also probably why he is termed as “boring” and predictable.
Taking a look at the larger picture here, James Milner is certainly a workhorse and quite tireless when it comes to playing. With a passing accuracy of over 81% in Europe and figures of seven goals and 14 assists last season coupled with an unwavering defensive contribution, he certainly proves himself to be a player worth retaining and cherishing. Along with all this, the fact that he came for free just makes the whole deal a lot better.
So far, he has one goal in three appearances for Liverpool this season in the Premier League. He filled in for the role of the left-back in all of them and notched up figures of one goal and two assists from his games.
There is something extremely telling about the fact that he has been hard to replace in every club he has left. That surely must account for something. For a boy who was once the youngest scorer in the Premier League (for Leeds United), it is certainly sad that Milner has slipped under the radar over time as he has emerged as a not so glamorous English footballer. It is his relentless determination and professionalism that must be commended. He still has a lot to give at Liverpool. Taking into account that he no longer has international football to distract him, perhaps it is time to make complete use of his potential at the club.