After stepping up to score the winner against Leicester City in the most dramatic of circumstances on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think about how important a player James Milner has been for the Reds over the last few years.
A stunning ball to set up Sadio Mané for the opener followed by the pressure penalty showed that the 33-year-old still plays a huge part in Jürgen Klopp’s squad and is deservedly in the starting XI most weeks, keeping the likes of Naby Keïta and Adam Lallana out of the fold.
Since signing on a free from Manchester City Milner has been a quiet revelation, going about his business with class and professionalism every single week. Here are the three reasons why I believe James Milner is crucial if we are to win our first title of the Premier League era this season.
You’ll struggle to find a more experienced Premier League player than James Milner. With more than 500 first-team appearances and 50 goals to his name, he holds a prestigious record that sees his side never lose a game in which he has scored.
Having played in the top flight for 17 years with hometown club Leeds United and venturing to Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Manchester City before heading to Anfield in the summer of 2015, the midfielder also has two Premier League medals from his Manchester City days so knows all too well what it’s like to be involved in a title race.
His experience could be key if we are to achieve our ultimate aim this season.
One of Milner’s best qualities is his versatility. He’ll play wherever the boss asks him too and always put in 100%, even if its not his preferred position.
A prime example of this came in the 2016/17 season, where he was forced to drop from midfield into left-back after a number of nervy performances from Alberto Moreno. He excelled at full-back that season.
Nathaniel Clyne is sidelined for the foreseeable future through injury and Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are our only fit first-team full-backs.
Milner could be used if either player picks up an injury or suspension, not to mention he could be used anywhere across the midfielder from playing deeper to further forward or his usual box-to-box role.
Despite being one of the oldest in the squad it’s remarkable that the Yorkshireman is in fact one of the fittest. He came out once again as the winner again in this seasons gruelling lactate tests, beating fellow midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fabinho as well as defender Joe Gomez.
His endurance levels are something to admire and you see that every single match — it also showed on the weekend. When some players began to tire and looked a little leggy, Milner appeared as sharp as he did in the opening minute. That speaks highly of how fit the midfielder actually is, especially for a man of his age.
His winning penalty on Saturday may be one of the occasions upon which we see come the end of the season as one the defining moments. He may be labelled as one of the most boring modern footballers, but that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to be one of the Reds most influential players.