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James Milner: Underrated and undervalued

The words James Milner sends shivers down the spines of many Man City and England fans around the country but his contribution is overlooked.

James Milner, 27, is very so often the first name on the team sheet in the eyes of the manager yet the last name on the team sheet that his fellow supporters want to hear. Why is the Manchester City and England winger groaned upon when he steps onto the football field?

The problem began earlier in Milner’s career. He immediately became vulnerable because of his early success. With Leeds United, at aged 16, Milner became the youngest player to ever score in the Premier League. Stardom was surely to follow?

The statisticians and fans alike ran into the idea that England had just produced a fine attacking young winger with an eye for goal. In actual fact, we hadn’t. Nevertheless, what England did produce is one of the best defensive wingers the Premier League has ever seen.

Due to his early goal, his appearances at Newcastle followed by his impressive stint at Aston Villa, fans up and down the country were left bewildered whenever Milner pulled on the England shirt. Why isn’t he scoring goals? Why isn’t he beating his man and whipping in crosses? The questions were endless.

Milner earned his move to Manchester City in a deal worth approximately £28.5 million. People laugh at that sum, especially as it’s obvious he hasn’t got the attacking intuitions as the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas or even some would argue fullbacks Zabaleta and Kolarov.

But one thing he can do better than the other out an out wingers is the defensive duty. That is exactly why James Milner is such a useful tool in those tricky away games and during the Champions League.

His job is not to score and provide, his job is to stop more illustrious wingers such as Franck Ribery, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr from running havoc.

The following stats illustrate James Milner’s defensive duties during away games in the Premier League. (All stats average per game)

- 1.4 tackles

- 0.9 interceptions

- 0.6 effective clearances

- 0.7 successful dribbles by other players and 0.7 turnovers

Those stats make Milner the best defensive winger in Man City’s squad. But how often are Man City on the back foot? Now, compare the same stats but to a much more difficult game such as Bayern Munich away in the Champions League

- 1 tackle

- 2 interceptions

- 2 effective clearances

- 0.9 successful dribbles by other player and 4 turnovers

So, before any shakes of the head on why James Milner may be starting crucial games for club and country, especially in Brazil 2014, instead of focusing on his good but not spectacular attacking play try to appreciate what he offers defensively to the team.

James Milner just might be the most important player for Manchester City for their Champions League clash with Barcelona and their crucial Premier League away games later on in the season.

How important is James Milner?

image: © markhillary

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