The latest rumour in the ever-rotating transfer mill has seen Manchester City’s 28 year-old winger, James Milner, linked with moves to Liverpool and Arsenal, as the Englishman has found first team opportunities limited at the Etihad, considering the plethora of midfield talent at the disposal of Manuel Pellegrini. This speculation has sparked a mixed reaction amongst fans, some discounting the Englishman as a modern day wide man because of his lack of pace, ability to take a man on, exotic surname or bizarre hairstyle, all hallmarks of the 21st century winger. However, the Citizen’s number 7 does boast a fair number of admirers amongst fans of possible suitors, hailing his doggedness and stamina and considering him an important part of Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
I am firmly of the opinion that many a fan unfairly casts a label of mediocrity over Milner, simply because he doesn’t possess the grace of Silva or the power of Toure. However, the energy provided by the former Aston Villa man when called upon is invaluable to Manchester City. The most glaring example of this was during the Sky blue’s gut-wrenching defeat at Anfield. The game seemed dead and buried at half time, however, Milner’s introduction proved to be an inspired one, as he exploited the bucket loads of space down Liverpool’s left flank, a consequence of their midfield diamond system. The Englishman was an integral part of whatever was right with City that faithful afternoon, as he played a neat one two with Fernandinho before flashing a tantalising ball across the six yard area which David Silva stuck into the back of the net. Milner played an important role in City’s equaliser as well as he played the initial ball into the box, before an unfortunate ricochet off Glen Johnson saw the Citizens draw level. That performance, amongst others, brought to my attention the significance of a player like Milner, and that it is not all about blistering pace and eye of the needle through balls, but dogged determination and grisly combativeness still bears considerable importance in the modern day game.
Surplus to requirements?
As aforementioned, I am an admirer of what Milner brings to a group of players, and my eyes widened with excitement when I saw Liverpool linked with him. Not to suggest that there is anything concrete in the rumours, Milner would undoubtedly add depth and defensive solidarity to Liverpool, should Brendan Rodgers show interest in him. During the tenure of Roberto Mancini, Milner and Pablo Zabaleta formed a formidable partnership down City’s right hand side; with the Englishman’s defensive contribution complimenting Zabaleta’s bombarding runs deep into the opposition half. This is congruent to the scenario at Liverpool, where the space left by ultra attacking fullbacks is often exploited. Milner could relieve the defensive duties of the fullbacks during certain periods of a game, and they could add impetus to the Reds’ attack down the flanks, with little danger of a counter attack. During the 2012-13 season, Milner proved his worth as a combative midfielder, winning 60% of his tackles, more than the likes of Yaya Toure and Javi Garcia. Despite starting a massive 61% of his 31 appearances from the bench, Milner has proved that he has a fantastic attitude and displayed admirable character and discipline by always giving it 100% for the team whenever he is called upon and has refrained from pressroom and social media outbursts. The former Aston Villa man is an ideal player to bring on when protecting a lead, as his ability to tuck in forces the team to become narrow and his stamina allows him to pressurize opponents into making mistakes and relinquishing possession. This could prove handy for Brendan Rodgers, who’s Liverpool side will bear the extra burden of European football next season, if the Northern Irishman is able to rekindle the form displayed by Milner under Mancini. Whether Man City will be willing to sell to a direct title rival is a different kettle of fish, however it remains the hope of many an informed red that Liverpool could nip in and pinch the last of a dying breed, the good old fashion winger. We wont forget your birthday, James. Promise.
By Hamzah Ebrahim – Liverpool fan –