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James Milner: Squad’s Decision-Making Improved Against Bologna

The Liverpool vice captain is optimistic about the squad’s pre-season progress.

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James Milner of Liverpool with Nathaniel Phillips of Liverpool during a training session on August 01, 2021 in France.
James Milner of Liverpool with Nathaniel Phillips of Liverpool during a training session on August 01, 2021 in France.
Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

James Milner was the Liverpool captain in the first of two wins against Bologna in Evian Thursday, and saw his portion of the Liverpool squad ease to a 2-0 win. Speaking to Milner felt the outing showed the progress that has resulted from the first pre-season the Reds have had since 2019/20.

I thought it was mostly pretty good. Obviously you can tell it’s still pre-season but I thought we’ve gone up another level again in terms of the way we worked.

We worked on the pressing, how we wanted to do it, yesterday in training and both goals I think came from that so that shows that the work we’re doing is paying off.

I thought we looked mostly organized the majority of the time ... I thought it was a good step up and closer to where we want to be.

Specifically, Milner felt the decision-making around the goals suggested important progress after the squad failed in that regard often in the 2020/21 season.

I think it’s pleasing to get the goals but also it highlights some of the other situations that not only we’ve had this pre-season, but maybe last season where we’ve been in good situations on the break and not picked the right last pass or finished off the situation. So that’s something again that we can improve. If we can improve our ratio of finishing off those situations there will be a lot more goals there. But I thought it was a pretty good performance.

While the squad is getting “closer” to where they want to be at the start of the season, the team’s vice captain feels there is a major positive in having a settled group of players.

Obviously it’s never easy in pre-season with players coming in at different times, different levels of fitness and not too many games before the first game of the season.

I think the good thing about this group is that we’ve played together for quite a long time, so you fall back in pretty quickly and it’s just about getting the minutes in in pre-season.

I think you can see from the performances each one is a step closer and we’re not coming into these games fresh. That’s the other thing: obviously in a season you are tapering training down into the game [but] we’ve had four very tough weeks here and we’re going into games with a big training load. So I think that’s pleasing and shows the fitness levels of the boys, that we can play with that intensity, but we’ve worked so hard over the four weeks.

It’s been a really good camp. The training that we’ve done has really helped us work on the situations where we need to improve and hopefully make us better going into a new season.

Sadly, as Milner himself pointed out in a post-match Tweet, the kit choices the players wore for the matches were anything but settled — perhaps something to improve on ahead of the new season.

As Milner himself broke into senior football at a young age with Leeds United, he was asked for his thoughts on Harvey Elliot, and on whether he gave the youngster any advice from his own experiences.

He’s a top player, I saw it the first time I trained with him. You could recognize how good he was, comfortable on the ball, good vision and a dribbler. It’s tough for him as well, coming back in after being away last season and getting back to how we play and it’s a different style to how most other teams play. I thought he’s had a good pre-season up to now and obviously the more minutes he gets in and around the boys in these games, the closer he will be.

... you try to [give him advice]. He’s a confident lad and he’s got a great mindset so he doesn’t need too much guidance, but hopefully we can help him on his way, all the boys. He’s a top talent and I see him making a big impact this year, but any help we can give him obviously helps him settle in and get up to speed. Maybe don’t make little mistakes that I made; if I can stop him doing that then with the talent he’s got he’s got a big future.

Fans who watched the latest pre-season matches will likely agree with Milner: the progress is clear, and the Reds should enter the new season with a level of preparedness — both in terms of fitness and tactical nous — that they may have lacked due to last season’s shortened break.

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