Article by Mizgan Masani @mizgans
Liverpool have made a perfect start to this Premier League season, winning all the four games played. This positive inception has sent a massive statement of intent around the world about the Reds meaning business, which was on the horizon once they completed some very high-class deals in the summer.
The whole team has contributed in one way or the other in the wins so far, which were not easy by any stretch of the imagination. For that reason, this perfect start makes more significance, just because there were moments when you felt something is going to give, and the Reds will drop points. But that hasn’t been the case thus far, for which credit goes to every player and the manager Jurgen Klopp.
One player who really has upped his performance level in the past six to seven months is the experienced James Milner. The Englishman has been an epitome consistency in the team, especially in the first four games of this season.
Despite Liverpool signing Xherdan Shaqiri, Naby Keita and Fabinho to bolster attacking, central and defensive midfield options respectively, Milner was adamant to retain his spot in central midfield. The 32-year-old has shown tremendous qualities on the pitch, and he seems to get better every next time he steps on the field.
Talking about his performances this season – the energy, the guile and of course the quality on display has been just phenomenal.
Dipping into some stats of the campaign, Milner has completed 343 passes, out of which 308 were successful with an accuracy rate of over 88%. This type of precision is what makes a midfield player special, as the whole team can trust him on the ball.
A midfielder must also be good without the ball, pressing and winning tackles or interceptions at crucial moments. Milner has made 8 vital interceptions (2 per game) and won 7 out of 15 tackles attempted. So, basically, the 32-year-old has produced 15 moments of ball recovery by himself, whether it be on his half or the opposition.
What makes Milner a complete midfielder is his contributions on the attacking side of things. His key passing rate of 1.8 is quite impressive in just the four games. This amounts to seven chances created towards goal (2 assists).
If the previous bits were any indications of what the player has done so far, the next bit is equally sensational. We will analyse his performance on the basis of heat-map against West Ham and Brighton. He was good in all the four games but we take these two for a reference.
As shown in the above image, James Milner’s heat-map against West Ham United in the opening game of the season. We can get an idea of how he performed and where he operated the most. The brightest spot is on the right central wing, from where the 32-year-old controlled the tempo of the game, by allowing the right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold to move forward and simultaneously covering the space.
There are also a few spots just around the centre circle, and some dots on the other side of the pitch. Overall, an impactful performance from a midfielder who basically covered every portion of position and more.
Against the Hammers, Milner had 122 touches of the ball, which was just 10 less than the combined touch count of Jack Wilshere and Mark Noble (132).
GAME STATS VS WEST HAM – PASS ACCURACY – 93.1% (95), KEY PASSES – 3, BIG CHANCES CREATED – 2, DUELS WON – 3, INTERCEPTION – 1.
Compared to West Ham, the Brighton game was a proper hard-work for Liverpool. They had to show determination and spirit to hold onto a one-goal lead. Milner was again influential all over the pitch controlling the wider midfield portions. His versatility allowed him to switch flanks once Klopp replaced Keita with Jordan Henderson.
He touched the ball 117 times during the game, the whole of Brighton’s midfield had a count of 181. It speaks volumes about a midfielder when his game influence is juxtaposed with the whole midfield of the opposition. Milner has only made this possible by doing great things on the pitch.
GAME STATS VS BRIGHTON – PASS ACCURACY – 89.4% (84), KEY PASSES – 1, DUELS WON – 7, TACKLES WON – 1, INTERCEPTIONS – 2.
Summing up, we have discussed everything about how James Milner has contributed in a big way this season. The way he has impacted the game on all fronts is something extraordinary. He is 32 and seems like getting better every passing week. Klopp also deserves credit for this incredible turnaround from a player who was expected to be on the periphery with all the new signings around.
It just shows that hard work and dedication can lead you somewhere positive in life. Take Milner as an example and replicate it in your own way, the results are certain to be positive.
Article by Mizgan Masani @mizgans