Ask most fans or pundits, and the expectation is still that James Milner will be at left back next season. Ask Milner, and he’s not so sure. It’s not so much that he doesn’t want to once again fill the fullback role, though, and more about how he sees himself as a player and how he fits into the squad.
“Would I say I’m a left-back now?” Milner said when he was asked by the club’s official website this week how he sees his role at the club heading into the 2017-18 season. “I’d probably say utility man. I’ll play wherever’s needed. Wherever there’s a leak, I’ll plug the gap.
“I’ve played in a lot of positions anyway so it’s just trying to learn as best you can and trying to change the mindset from what you’re used to and to do the job as well as possible. It’s about whatever’s best for the team and ultimately I just want to be out there playing games, contributing and helping this football club.”
A month ago, when Liverpool had targeted 16-year-old wunderkid Ryan Sessegnon at the position, the assumption was that Milner’s position as starting left back was safe and certain. Now that Sessegnon is heading elsewhere, likely to Tottenham, that doesn’t seem as certain.
Now, there’s a chance Liverpool will instead look at more seasoned alternatives at the position, and if a player arrives who can start there week in and week out, Milner could again find himself switching roles and perhaps even returning to midfield.
Whatever happens, though, Milner’s main priority always comes back to wanting to contribute. In midfield, on the wing, or at fullback. And what Liverpool do in the transfer market over the next month or two will likely determine where he spends most of his time in 2017-18.