A statistic has hit social media that summarises one of Liverpool’s midfielders’ current form – no wonder fans wanted a new midfield signing.
Given the nature of Liverpool’s start and the number of injuries suffered, it’s been a tough start for the Reds.
Fortunately, the likes of Joel Matip, Thiago, Diogo Jota and others are returning to full fitness and they can begin to put together a winning run more like the Liverpool we know.
That would mean James Milner, who has been deputising in midfield in Thiago’s absence, will move back to his backup squad role. Fans have been disappointed with Milner’s performances and a key statistic has revealed that he has been struggling in the middle of the park.
Start of the season form for James Milner
According to WhoScored, James Milner is being dribbled past more times per 90 (3.8) than any other player in the Premier League this season.
Plus, he’s only started two out of six Premier League games this season.
In the two games he did start in – Manchester United and Crystal Palace – it was clear he was just off the pace.
Fans were not happy with the club’s decision to not sign a midfielder this summer, and Milner’s poor displays in those games only reaffirmed their anger.
Despite that, his stats show a very well-rounded midfielder, who contributes at both ends of the pitch.
Nothing screams ‘all-round’ more than registering between the 95th-99th percentile for tackles, passes attempted, progressive passes and xG assisted.
He made his 600th appearance in the goalless Derby draw with Everton and he spoke about how long he feels he has left in the game: “I feel good and you’re a long time retired, so I want to keep playing for as long as I can.
“And let’s face it, there are worse places to be playing football than for Liverpool Football Club.”
As the senior figure in the squad, Milner is a key player more so off the pitch than on it.
At 36, his role in the squad is that of a utility and backup player – a role he’s more than thrived in on Merseyside over the years.
With his current £150k-a-week deal running out next summer, the club has a decision to make.
Given his famed fitness levels and extremely professional lifestyle, he can continue as a fringe player at the club, but his levels on the pitch are dropping year on year.
Other players are also in the same situation contract-wise as Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both see their contracts end next summer.
The higher-ups will have to decide if it’s time for a midfield rebuild – given Jude Bellingham is the long-term target.
A lot depends on how well Arthur Melo’s loan deal progresses over the season as well.
It’s likely Milner will be kept around for his overall impact on the squad and for that extreme versatility that he’s become so famous for in the later years of his career.