There aren’t many players that work as hard on the pitch as James Milner, and despite nearing 30, such energy seems to show no signs of stopping. Players such as Philippe Coutinho and new man Roberto Firmino will feel comforted knowing they have someone like Milner supporting them from behind and ensuring all gaps are covered. Out of all the players in the Premier League last season, Milner placed third in the total ground covered, managing to run 11.7km per 90 minutes. Milner also made 2.8 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game, just about pipping fellow Liverpool workhorse Jordan Henderson, who he will be sharing the midfield with next season. Having someone like Milner in midfield might benefit Henderson by relieving him of some of the work, allowing him to move forward more and improve on his attacking game.
While Milner’s defensive work-rate is one of his more overstated assets, the new Liverpool signing is also a very forward-thinking player. When in advanced positions, Milner possesses great awareness, knowing exactly where his team-mates will be as well as showing great composure in tight situations. Such qualities led to the player managing eight goals and seven assists across all competitions, a decent return for someone who felt he was considered merely a utility player last season. What makes this statistic even more impressive is that Coutinho, Liverpool’s primary playmaker, registered fewer goals and assists across all competitions last year. Milner also made more key passes and created more chances than both Henderson and Steven Gerrard last season, registering at least 2.3 and 2.6 per game respectively.
It is no secret that Brendan Rodgers likes to tinker with his tactics. Over the course of last season, the Liverpool manager flirted with a variety of formations and while some managed to make the leap to unfamiliar positions, others failed to find their feet. Rodgers will not have such problems with Milner, who can operate in several positions. He provided width for Newcastle and Aston Villa before switching to the centre of midfield for City. However, last season, Milner featured just about everywhere on the pitch, including a brief stint as a striker due to injuries to others in that position. Whatever formation he decides to go with on game-day, Rodgers can be reassured that Milner will be the most malleable player on the pitch.
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