Premier League • England

Liverpool man ‘exposed’, but critics told to stop singling out unfortunate star in firing line

James Milner, Mohamed Salah, September 2022

One pundit believes that while James Milner has not played at his best for Liverpool this season, he should not bear the brunt of the blame.

The Reds’ 4-1 Champions League defeat to Napoli on Wednesday has only exacerbated their concerns this term. Previous results have shown signs of a dip, but the loss in Naples cemented those fears.

Manager Jurgen Klopp admitted that his team needs to “reinvent” itself.

Liverpool’s midfield has faced some of the toughest criticism for not defending from the front and also linking up attacks like usual – a drop-off caused by a lack of the team’s usual intensity.

And 36-year-old Milner has also been in the spotlight because he is the epitome of the claim that Liverpool’s midfield is ageing and that more new signings should have arrived this summer.

According to former goalkeeper Paul Robinson, though, Milner is just one of several players who deserve criticism.

Asked if time is not on Milner’s side anymore, the pundit told Football Insider: “I disagree. Liverpool played in every game they could have possibly played in last season. You don’t decline that much in six weeks.

“Milner can still play at the top level. I think he is playing in a team that is struggling and he has been exposed a couple of times this season.

“Liverpool’s high line has been exposed because they are not defending from the front. The team is not functioning in the way the manager wants and expects.”

Other pundits have slammed centre-back Virgil van Dijk, among other players, for their roles in Liverpool’s recent downturn.

Milner doesn’t deserve all Liverpool criticism

Robinson added on Milner: “It is easy to highlight individual players but when a team isn’t playing well collective responsibility needs to be taken.

“When a team is playing well you can carry a player who has a bad day. Unfortunately, Milner is playing in a team that is struggling right now.”

Milner could have left Liverpool in the summer, but he stayed on by signing a new one-year deal.

However, he could well move on next summer – or even retire.

Reds midfield needs revamp

Amid the criticism right across the board at Liverpool, the fact is they need midfield reinforcements.

The Reds have, of course, signed Arthur Melo on loan from Juventus.

It remains unclear whether Liverpool will take up their option to buy the Brazilian, but any reinforcement at this point is welcome.

Thiago Alcantara impressed when he came on against Napoli, but at 31, he is not a long-term option.

Captain Jordan Henderson is a year older than the Spaniard and is currently out with injury. Elsewhere, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are not even in Liverpool’s Champions League squad because of their fitness issues.

This is the first time under Klopp’s management that Liverpool’s recruitment has been called into question this much.

It will take some serious work and investment in the transfer market to fix these issues.

But given what the German has achieved at Liverpool, he can still be the man to turn things around at Anfield.