Why Vocal James Milner Can Be The Voice Behind Liverpool’s Resurgence


Around 30 minutes remained at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night when Arsenal really started getting on top of Liverpool.

Alexis Sanchez suddenly seemed to find a spring in his step, Mesut Ozil was taking up threatening positions and Aaron Ramsey was drifting in from the right with intent – when the excellent Joe Gomez allowed him to, at any rate.

Then, it was after one of an increasing number of intricate Gunners moves broke down that a little piece of Yorkshire came to North London.

With the ball forced out of play by Liverpool for the umpteenth time that half, James Milner took it upon himself to bellow orders at every black shirted teammate in the vicinity, accompanied with the trademark clapping of the hands and gritty stare that we’ve come to expect of a man who has now played more than 550 games for club and country, even if only three are for Liverpool.

Everyone got it.

It was Lucas Leiva, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Roberto Firmino who were the unfortunate quintet who were closest to the erupting Leeds volcano though, with the resultant ash cloud perhaps threatening any passing aircraft.

Amongst those five are Liverpool’s two longest-serving current players, their most expensive ever defender and two summer signings whose arrivals garnered much more attention than Milner’s did, but here was the free transfer from Manchester City – their captain on the night – letting them know in no uncertain terms what was on the line.

It was a point, essentially, but it felt like much more than that.

One hundred and forty-two days on from a shambolic 4-1 loss to Arsenal at the tail end of the last campaign, here was a Liverpool side featuring only four starters from that game standing up to be counted at the home of one of the division’s elite.

FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-LIVERPOOL : News Photo

They could have won had Philippe Coutinho’s aim been a little straighter or Petr Cech not been quite so much at his brilliant best, or they could have lost had a linesman’s call been different or Skrtel’s late slice from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross passed the other side of the post, but what’s crucial is that they competed – because they stopped doing that last season.

They became beset with internal issues as Steven Gerrard’s decline was anything but managed, Raheem Sterling became the problem from within and Mario Balotelli just remained Mario Balotelli.

On paper, reputation and probably some stats-based computer games out there that people can base their football opinions on, Liverpool should become a worse team for losing all three, but the signs are that they aren’t.

Brendan Rodgers appears to have spent the summer fashioning a team which is happy to forego his engrained football ‘philosophy’ if it means gaining points by any means necessary, and in that context it is little wonder that Milner has immediately shone in his formative weeks as a Reds player.

Stoke City v Liverpool - Premier League : News Photo

There are plenty of aspects of football writing out there that can end up making the author look foolish – and those of us who predicted that things would be different for Balotelli at Liverpool or that Angel Di Maria would be a surefire hit at Manchester United will always have that cross to bear – but there has always been something about Milner’s move to Liverpool which made sense.

At a time when the club needed to restore some pride, they were joined by a player who wanted to show everyone what he was capable of.

Milner has always been much more than a utility man, or a squad player at a club where he’s surrounded by more skilful performers, but at City he could never escape those labels.

At Liverpool he’s already making his voice heard, he’s the vice-captain of the team and he’s playing a key role in a start to the season which is threatening to turn the increasing number of pessimists around the club into optimists.

There’s an awful long way to go, but it might just be that the right club has found the right player and vice versa. 

And if that’s not worth shouting about, then what is? 

 

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