Other than time spent twiddling his thumbs on match days, a major part of James Milner’s beef with Manchester City has been the club’s refusal to deploy the England international in his favoured central midfield role.
This angst has led Milner to the cusp of an Etihad exit, where aside from some t-crossing and i-dotting, nearly every media source reports it is Liverpool who are set to benefit.
Without being privy to the negotiations, it’s pure conjecture to suggest the player’s decision has been swayed by assurances he’ll be played centrally, but given Liverpool’s decline, this has to be one of the major attractions for Milner.
Having waved a protracted goodbye to Steven Gerrard, there is certainly scope for an experienced head to slot into the Anfield engine room.
After the season that’s just passed for Brendan Rodgers’ charges, only Jordan Henderson looks assured of his place in the heart of Liverpool’s midfield as it stands.
With the trend under Rodgers to run with three central midfielders, it makes sense that 29-year-old Milner be slotted in next to his England teammate, leaving one of Emre Can or Lucas to provide the defensive cover behind the pairing.
This would mean Philippe Coutinho pushing into one of the wide forward positions, but having flourished from the left before now by cutting inside to fill dangerous pockets, this isn’t a huge issue.
Quotes from Milner earlier this season, confirmed where the former Aston Villa and Newcastle man sees managers squeezing the best out of him.
“Attacking central midfielder because I think with my engine, I can get forward and back,” Milner said.
“I think when you play wide sometimes, you have to be disciplined and wait for the ball to come to you and hold your shape for the team, whereas in the middle, if things aren’t going the way of the team, you can get involved and take the game by the scruff of the neck.”
A victim of his own versatility in the past, it seems probably the final big move of a stellar career to date must be built around a notion that he will be given licence to influence games far more.
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