Liverpool's opening day victory over Stoke City could be described, in a word, as fortunate, but that isn't how James Milner sees things. Before Philippe Coutinho's stunning 86th minute winner, the Reds looked as though they'd settle for a goalless draw (which, it has to be said, is not the worst result one can attain from the Britannia), and the energetic midfielder believes his South American teammate is set for a star-making individual campaign.
"I think he is going to keep improving all the time," Milner said of Liverpool's magical No. 10. "I saw him do that a few times last year, so it was nice to have him do that while I was on the field and on his side. He has got that quality and we know we have quality all over the field."
"It was pleasing to keep a clean sheet," he continued, "we looked really solid and as a team we did a good job. There are going to be games throughout the season where maybe you don’t play as well as you want. You can’t always play free-flowing football, sometimes it is a battle and you need that bit of brilliance. The pleasing thing is we were solid, kept a clean sheet and Stoke didn’t really cause us too much problems with balls into the box. We kept a good line."
The England international may know a thing or two about brilliance, having picked up two Premier League winners medals and both domestic cups during his time at Manchester City, and he believes his new side now has the grit to go with their glamour. "Ultimately, it is about getting that win whether it is a game where we can move the ball about or whether it is a game where it is a battle and we have to grind it out. You have to assess the situation and be able to adapt and play in different formations against different sides. It is a top team that can adapt and win games when things maybe aren’t playing to your strengths."
"If we played rubbish every game of the season and won every one of them, then everybody would be happy with that. It takes time for players to gel and there has been a lot of new arrivals, not just on the pitch but in the coaching staff, too. There is a lot of quality there, a lot of younger guys, so there are going to be games when we have ups and downs but that is football. It is going to be like that all season."
It's a point worth making. Teams like Manchester United and Chelsea have built title pushes entirely around their ability to grind out results, but Liverpool fans will be hoping to see both style and substance this season, both of which were lacking last time out. If Liverpool are to mount a serious assault on the Premier League's top four, they'll need the likes of Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson to bring some flair to the forward line. Grinding out results simply is not enough. It isn't, after all, the Liverpool way.