Why James Milner is already showing signs that he's a key player for Liverpool this season

James Milner outside stadium

Milner has impressed during pre-season for Liverpool and, after the departure of Steven Gerrard, his contributions being carried into competitive games will go some way to filling the void left by a legend.

It may only be pre-season, but James Milner seems to be making a positive impact in the early stages of his Liverpool career.

This summer was always going to be a tricky one for the Reds as they needed to address many issues. Leadership, with the departure of Steven Gerrard, and the lack of cutting edge in the final third as the Reds look to replace the 50 goals lost in the Premier League since the departure of Luis Suarez and the injury problems Daniel Sturridge has been suffering from. As well as the forwards, other areas of the team must start to contribute in front of goal. 

But Milner has shown he has an eye for goal during pre-season - netting crucial efforts in the victories over Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United during the tour of Australia. 

Milner may be helping to replace two aspects of the side, in terms of leadership and goals. He has shown he can be the man that arrives in the box and finish off a move, while as one of the more experienced members of the team, he is going to be one of the players the side will look to whenever they are in a sticky spot. 

He will have a different role in the side under Brendan Rodgers then his immediate predecessor did. Gerrard played the holding role, while it looks as though Milner will be deployed further forward along with Jordan Henderson in order to exercise an aggressive pressing game while covering for other players when facing counter attacks. 

It seems as though Milner is going to play in the role that Gerrard would have fulled under the current manager if he was working with a incarnation of the Liverpool legend from five years ago - when his fitness and ability to get up and down couldn't really be questioned. 

There's a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Milner, and he has different qualities to Gerrard. Though there will be obvious comparisons because he was the first central midfielder through the door this summer after the departure of the 35-year-old, there will be a lot of eyes on him to see if he can fill the void. 

If he can repeat what he has been doing in pre-season games, Milner can go a long way to compensating for the loss of Gerrard. As a result, he will probably be judged harshly regardless of how well he plays, but the early signs are promising and suggest that he has what it takes to handle life under the spotlight.

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