Do Liverpool have a secret attacking weapon in James Milner?
Liverpool have been irresistible in attack so far this season. They have the classy Roberto Firmino, the electric Sadio Mane, the tireless Adam Lallana and the phenomenal Philippe Coutinho, all playing at the top of their game. They are so good, even Daniel Sturridge can barely get a sniff up front for the Reds, and he is one of the best goalscorers in the league.
But the attacking verve doesn’t stop there. Jurgen Klopp’s side have scored 16 league goals this season, coming from seven separate sources. They have goals coming from all over the park, which is exemplified by their joint top scorer being emergency left-back James Milner, who has scored three times this season.
In fact, since the turn of 2016, Milner has been involved in more goals for Liverpool in all competitions than any other player. More, even, than Firmino and Coutinho, who have been very impressive in this calendar year from far more advanced positions. He may not be the most fashionable part of Liverpool’s team, but the former Manchester City man is clearly one of the most important.
Of course, Milner has benefited from being the club’s number one penalty taker. All three of his goals this campaign have come from the spot, which does slightly alter the impressiveness of the Yorkshireman’s ability to score from full-back.
However, penalty taking is an important part of the game, and was the primary reason that Steven Gerrard was so prolific in the 2013/14 campaign, where Liverpool carried an attacking verve reminiscent of their current form. If the Reds are going to win penalties, having a clean ball striker like Milner will be vital.
But his contribution to attacking play is so much more than just sticking away penalties. Although there are limitations to playing a midfielder at left-back, Milner has a completely different mindset to other full-backs in the division that gives him an edge going forward.
He is an intelligent player and knows not to crowd the space in the middle, but he also knows the kind of balls that creative players thrive on in the middle of the park, as he displayed to devastating effect when he played in Philippe Coutinho in the build up to Adam Lallana’s opening goal.
Milner can also provide a variety of options for putting the ball into the box. Alberto Moreno’s technique was essentially along the lines of running as fast as he could down the wing and smashing the ball into the box as hard as he could. Milner can also cross with his left foot, but his right is an beautiful crossing tool which gives the Reds an extra option when the intricate passing isn’t working.
Furthermore, off the ball, Milner is a tireless workhorse who has won the favour of many managers over his career thanks to his willingness to run. With him at left-back, Liverpool can press even higher up the park and cause even more drama in opposition defences.
Milner may still be learning his place at left-back, and defensively he still has a lot to learn, but the positive impacts from having another attack minded player in the team are being reaped to the full by Liverpool.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Anfield BR
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