Analysing James Milner's goalscoring performance for Liverpool against Tottenham
Perennially known as a man of great versatility, James Milner has been pressganged into the unusual position of playing left-back thanks to the erratic form of Alberto Moreno and a lack of other defensive options.
Traditionally a central midfielder or winger, there are clear positives and negatives of playing someone like Milner in a defensive position, and both were clearly on show as Liverpool gained a creditable, if slightly disappointing draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
Firstly, Milner was mainly very solid defensively. Erik Lamela had very little impact on the makeshift left-back, and neither did Christian Eriksen when the two players switched flanks during the first half. His job may have been made easier by the premature departure of Kyle Walker, but Milner was on the whole very good.
In fact, Liverpool’s overall defensive performance was very good, with Tottenham only really creating one outstanding chance – Danny Rose’s equaliser.
This is where we saw the negative side of deploying Milner in defence. Rather than dropping to cover a long ball played, the ex-Manchester City player stepped up in the manner of a central midfielder attempting to cut the ball out. As a result, Dier was in behind the defence and could loop a cross to the back post which was eventually tucked in by Rose. There were other Liverpool mistakes in allowing the goal, but better positioning from the makeshift left-back and the Reds might have walked away with all three points.
In attack, Milner also showed a mix of positives and negatives for his team. His ability to cross with both feet was useful, as were his intelligent, midfield runs that gave Spurs another man to think about in and around their penalty area. Players such as Moreno wouldn’t run to the right-hand side of the box like Milner does and it can be very hard to track for opposing players.
However, Milner is also right footed, and cut back or inside rather than going down the wing on a number of occasions. With Philippe Coutinho in front of him doing the same thing, the Reds lacked a real outlet on the left-hand side, occasionally cramming the centre with too many attack minded players.
The makeshift defender deserves credit for stepping up to slot home the penalty which put Liverpool into the lead, especially considering the attacking talent that was on display. It was another reminder to Jurgen Klopp that he remains an experienced and dependable member of the squad.
Overall, Milner had a pretty good game out of his comfort zone at left-back. Yes, he was out of position for the goal, but his overall defensive performance was good and the positional mistakes will be ironed out the longer he plays there. His penalty was excellently tucked away, and the Englishman showed he will remain an important member of the squad for the upcoming season.
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