James Milner is a man of many qualities. For years, he has done whichever job has been given to him very efficiently and without any sign of a fuss; so much so that social media has given him the moniker of ‘Boring James Milner’.
Milner would be the first to tell you that he is not bothered by nicknames, and boring doesn’t necessarily translate badly. Milner is versatile, reliable and of a good footballing standard.
The 30-year-old made his professional debut back in 2002 for Leeds United, and in the fourteen years that have passed by since, debates continue as to which position Milner is best deployed in.
Is he a box to box midfielder who makes tireless runs up and down the pitch all day long? Is he a defensive midfielder who uses his energy to do the donkey work in the middle of the park? Or is he an old fashioned winger who can hog the touchline and deliver dangerous balls into the box?
The answer might instead lie in the area Liverpool are most desperately looking to strengthen.
It’s no secret that Liverpool have been searching for a left sided full-back for the entirety of the transfer window. Though their efforts have all ended in vain thus far.
Raphael Guerrero opted to join Thomas Tuchel’s revolution at Borussia Dortmund rather than Klopp at Melwood, and Liverpool have also been unable to agree on terms with English Champions Leicester City for the prodigious talent of Benjamin Chilwell.
Andy Robertson of Hull City was also deemed as a potential option, though reports appear to have now gone quiet. Liverpool have a dearth of options at full-back, with the right-sided Nathaniel Clyne being the only man to have shown conviction in his role.
Current first team left-back Alberto Moreno has immense potential, but has been a defensive liability thus far; failing to strike a balance between making attacking runs and tracking back to defend.
Strangely, all alternative options to Moreno have disappeared for this season. Brad Smith has joined Bournemouth, while the promising Jon Flanagan has moved to Sean Dyche’s Burnley side on a season-long loan to gain regular first team action.
As a result, Liverpool may just look towards Milner, who’s qualities could prove to be a solution to this full-back conundrum.
Milner is tireless, tenacious and tactically efficient; the key attributes in a modern full-back. He has been widely used as a winger for his high work rate, dangerous deliveries and ability to effectively shield the man playing behind him.
The experienced England international has also played as ‘that man’ himself a couple of times, having been used by both Manuel Pellegrini and Roberto Mancini at Manchester City as an attacking wing-back to significant effect when chasing games.
Milner may not be a long-term solution to Liverpool’s long-standing full-back position, and the player has himself made it clear of his desire to play as a central midfielder, but he could be a very effective temporary fix, and is perhaps likely to accept this role it means a guaranteed starting spot.
Liverpool’s number seven could just turn out to be Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield version of ex-Dortmund player Kevin Grosskreutz; a hardworking midfielder, capable of deputising as a full-back for the greater good of the team. The versatility of Milner to even be considered as a solution to such a large issue for Liverpool, speaks volumes of his playing ability.