Aside from making far too much money and missing the target with far too many of his corner kicks, James Milner has quietly had an impressive start to his Liverpool career. 2,223 minutes, five goals, and six assists isn't a skyscraping return, but then again, Milner's not a skyscraping sort of player.
In fact, he is one goal and one assist shy of the best statistical return he ever gave to Manchester City, where his last season saw him put six goals and seven assists in for the Sky Blues. Even in his generally agreed upon best ever season--the 2009/10 season as Martin O'Neill's key performer at Aston Villa--Milner only notched up seven goals and twelve assists. A hardy return to be sure, but it's hardly Frank Lampard/Steven Gerrard-esque numbers.
And that's because the lad is at his best as a water carrier. A luxuriantly talented one. Like a S.Pellegrino carrier, really. His massively robust footballing IQ allowed him to slot right into the professional game as a 16 year old, it allowed him to shift from pacy winger to box to box central midfielder, and it allowed him to play a perfect foil for David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Sergio Aguero during his time at City.
Regrettably, the fact that Milner's best comes between the high notes of a match was something that is easily lost on swathes of the fanbase, who looked at the player's wage packet and adjusted their expectations to match it. Nevermind that Milner was coming to a new team right when the old manager was on his last days, that the system shift for the incoming manager was a considerable change, and that the first string attack that he was brought in to assist has been pretty consistently unavailable due to injury and scheduling-enforced rotation.
But don't feel bad for the guy--that wage packet, remember?
According to his conversation with Liverpoolfc.com, it's clear that Milly's got more pressing matters on his mind at the moment.
"In terms of where we are now, we've got that rest and we have to use it.
"We've got two massive games next week - a chance to progress in [the Europa League] and a chance to win a trophy which doesn't come around too often. So it's important that we're ready for those two and hopefully we can get two positive results next week."
A Europa League second leg and a
Capitol One Carling Cup final against one's former employers will focus any an's competitive appetite. It's a feeling and setting Milner will be familiar with having experienced the top levels of international and European football throughout his career.
And experience is yet another component of what Milner brings to the table that Redkind would do well to not underestimate. Dude's been there, dude's won things, and the stage of these games won't shake dude into poor performances.
For a club whose weighty badge and discerning fanbase has pressured and burned so many new arrivals into poor first seasons in Red, it's quite refreshing to see Milner quietly taking this first season at Liverpool in stride. Even during the wretched stretch of corner kick delivery, or atrocious early performances at central midfield under Brendan Rodgers, the player's head never dipped. That's something this whole squad could do more of. It's something Jürgen Klopp has specifically spoken about as being critical to success.
So here's hoping we see Milner lifting some silverware alongside Klopp and the lads to cement his successful maiden voyage at Anfield.