Pre-season pointers: Milner will be key cog in Liverpool machine
Pre-season seems to be more about PR than press-ups these days, but even in the far-flung corners of the globe the Premier League’s big guns can learn some valuable on-pitch lessons to take into the new campaign.
Liverpool are among those clubs to have adopted the Phileas Fogg approach to pre-season, touching down in the Far East and Australia on a whistle-stop tour.
In between the multitude of photo ops there has actually been some football played however, and in that respect Brendan Rodgers must be very satisfied, especially where his new signings are concerned.
Victories over the Thai All Stars (4-0), Brisbane Roar (2-1) and a 2-0 triumph over Adelaide United latterly are not sufficient evidence to declare the Reds’ ills of last season have been cured, but, they are a promising enough start.
In particular, the influence of James Milner has been very encouraging for those of a Reds persuasion.
Labelled as a player grossly underrated during a fine career to date by Rodgers, the free transfer from Manchester City seems to be relishing his central deployment on the tour.
Alongside freshly-promoted skipper Jordan Henderson, the 29-year-old has been a real tempo setter in the centre of the park and even more promisingly some goals have arrived too.
Milner has scored in separate matches by timing his bursts into the box precisely and with the England pair operating so effectively in tandem, suddenly the supposedly-gaping void left by Steven Gerrard has been swallowed up.
There have also been goals for Liverpool first-timers Divock Origi and Danny Ings, while young defender Joe Gomez has impressed greatly too.
The prodigious teenager brought in from Charlton will be part of first-team plans according to Rodgers, while Jordan Ibe has looked in menacing form with the ball at his feet and is sure to be knocking on the door again.
These are very early days so a lid should be kept firmly planted on expectations, especially with big name signings Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke yet to be integrated, waiting back in England.
The proof in the pudding will arrive on August 9th when Liverpool revisit the site of their final-day mauling from last season.
The visitors to the Britannia Stadium look quite skinny at 13/10 to exact revenge and take the points given the 6-1 beating they took that day.
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