When Jordan Henderson limped off after 50 minutes against Bournemouth, plenty of Liverpool fans were worried. Not just because the club’s captain was hurt, but also because suddenly it looked as though the club might be down to just two fit central midfielders in Emre Can and James Milner.
Milner, though, is certain that there are plenty of options in the middle of the part for the manager to choose from. He and Henderson might be locks to start if available, but the Reds’ vice-captain sees a number of players being able to step in—or step back—and fill roles depending on how the manager wants to approach a game.
"It depends how the manager wants to play," Milner told the club’s official website. "Two or three, or one of us sitting. There’s plenty of energy in there. Emre came on as well, Adam played in there, and Philippe played in there. There’s a lot of options for us and a lot of different styles of players, and a lot of energy.
Most would say Liverpool will need three dedicated central midfielders to keep up with Arsenal on the road on Monday. Certainly Liverpool will need all the energy and industry of Milner, a hopefully healthy Henderson, and whichever third Rodgers chooses to send out with them—it he changes the shape of the starting eleven.
So far, though, it has appeared Rodgers wants to see if he can get a rather lopsided 4-2-3-1 to work again this season. It’s a formation the manager attempted to make work with mostly poor results early last year and then returned to again toward the end of the season, again with results that largely didn’t impress.
However, even if Liverpool have needed a wonder strike from Philippe Coutinho and some generous officiating this season, it’s an approach that sees them on six points after two games. And no matter the formation, Milner says the key will be energy, industry, and pressure in midfield providing a foundation for Liverpool’s attack.
"That’s how we want to play, we want to move the ball but we want to put teams under pressure as well when they have it," he added. "We have defended well in the first two games of the season and we’re going to need to do that [at Arsenal]. But if we can keep improving and keep clean sheets, we have quality going forward."