Much has been made of James Milner’s form in recent months as the Liverpool lynchpin appears to be improving with age, but his recent injury blow against Manchester City has put his first-team place in jeopardy.
Competition for places in central midfield are incredibly intense at Anfield with Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Adam Lallana all vying for spot. And that’s without even mentioning the long-term absentee Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Despite the strength of Jurgen Klopp’s options, James Milner has managed to establish himself as something of a first-team regular due to his exceptional all-round performances in a box-to-box role.
At 32-years-of-age Milner evokes an exuberance which you’d expect to see from a player in their early twenties, and his exceptional energy on the field is a testament to his exemplary standards of professionalism.
Milner has endeared himself to the Reds faithful since he arrived at the club from Manchester City, and they were naturally gutted to see him leave the field on Sunday with a hamstring injury.
But his injury arrives as good news for summer recruits Naby Keita and Fabinho as Milner’s absence should hand both players an opportunity to cement their name on Klopp’s team sheet.
The early signs would suggest that Keita is the man who Klopp will bring in to replace Milner: not only did Keita come on to replace him against Man City, but he has appeared in all eight of Liverpool’s league matches so far this season, whilst Fabinho is yet to feature.
With Milner expected to be ruled out until November (as per Liverpool Echo), it’s a perfect time for Naby Keita (valued at £58.5 million by Transfermarkt) to prove his worth and help Liverpool forget about the absence of their consistently reliable talent.
The flashes of brilliance which Keita has demonstrated so far are more than enough to suggest that he will blossom into a phenomenal player at Liverpool in the years to come, but if he fails to take his imminent opportunity then Fabinho will be waiting in the wings to fill Milner’s void.
Keita certainly has the ability to ensure Liverpool maintain their high standards without Milner in the midfield, it’s now down to him to prove that after the international break.
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