A thrilling Premier League game at Anfield saw Liverpool and Manchester City share the spoils in a four-goal thriller. Manchester City started the game on the front foot, creating several good chances taking the advantage of the fact that Liverpool were not their usual self with the ball. Liverpool were sloppy in their passing and struggles to clear the ball as Manchester City attacked their goal.
James Milner, Liverpool‘s vice-captain was again seen playing at the right-back position in the absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Liverpool number 7 has played at full-back many times, yet it must be kept in mind that it is not his preferred position. The first half was not an ideal outing for James Milner. City targeted that right side of Liverpool’s defence, and Phil Foden caused issues for Milner for most of his time on the pitch. Foden got in behind the right-back multiple times in the first half and was a serious threat on goal.
James Milner has performed well when it comes to attacking the opposition goal and does provide great crosses into the penalty area. The visual indicates that most of the passes he played into the penalty area had a high expected threat. But the main concern for Liverpool is when the opposition attack them on the break, which is where Milner lacks the pace to catch up with the opposition. At 35, Milner is not as quick as he once was. He tries to make up for the loss of pace with his vast experience.
The above visual shows us the duels that James Milner has lost in the matches that he has played at the right-back position. Milner has lost of a high number of defensive duels in his own half and failed to win the ball for his team. In the case of Alexander-Arnold, even if he is beaten by the opposition player, he has the pace to catch up with the player and get back into position.
The above visual shows us the number of defensive duels that James Milner attempted against Manchester City. Milner attempted a total of nine defensive duels throughout the game, winning only one of these nine duels. He lost seven duels which he attempted against Foden and Silva, who used their quick feet and pace to dribble past Milner with ease. Milner was lucky not to have been sent off for another badly timed challenge on Bernardo Silva in the second half before he was replaced by Joe Gomez.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has been arguably one of the best right-backs in the world in the last three years. He has played a key role for Liverpool to return to the top of the game. However, the England international was ruled out with an injury. Milner undoubtedly brings quality and experience to the Liverpool team, but he shouldn’t be playing in defence against top opposition because this gives them the chance to exploit the team’s weakness. Liverpool have not found a like for like replacement yet for the right-back position as they have done for the left-back position.