Liverpool’s mistakes from last season threaten to re-emerge after latest setback

James Milner performed admirably despite playing in the unfamiliar position of right-back, but Jurgen Klopp is still short of back-up options in his Liverpool squad

Jurgen Klopp post Crystal Palace

A sudden setback for a player of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s calibre is often enough to completely side-line any team’s game plan and formation.

Fortunately for Jurgen Klopp, he had a manager’s dream to call upon in Liverpool’s 3-0 home victory against Crystal Palace.

Not only has James Milner been drinking from the fountain of youth over the course of the last few years, but he has also evolved to become the closest thing football has to a Swiss army knife.

Central midfield, wide midfield, left-back, right-back – if it’s on a football pitch he will play it.

No player covered more distance or completed more sprints than Milner – an incredible achievement considering he was one of the oldest players on the pitch.

Jurgen Klopp had to look to James Milner to fill in for the ill Trent Alexander-Arnold

There are very few stars as malleable and adaptable as the former Manchester City and Aston Villa star.

He slipped seamlessly into Liverpool ’s back four as a right back, reducing one of the Premier League ’s most dangerous wide midfielders in Wilfried Zaha to a mere spectator.

The Crystal Palace talisman gave Tottenham Hotspur’s latest £28 million addition Emerson Royal a torrid time in Patrick Vieira’s side’s 3-0 victory against the Lilywhites, but he barely troubled Milner at Anfield.

Alexander-Arnold brings dynamism, passing range, and perhaps the best delivery seen in the Premier League over the course of the last ten years – Milner ensured Liverpool were not completely without the 22-year-old’s qualities.

Nobody would have ever guessed Milner was not a natural right-back let alone defender.

Just like a glorious roll of duct tape is to a tradesperson, Milner is often Klopp’s solution to repairing any issue within the team.

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James Milner thwarted Wilfried Zaha nearly every time they faced each other at Anfield

While the timeless star is certainly an asset to Liverpool, the club surely cannot afford to rely on him every time one of their first team midfielders or defenders suffer an injury or illness.

Milner has featured for Liverpool as a defensive midfielder, as a wide midfielder, and as a left and right-back.

He has so many incredible qualities and assets; however, one Swiss army knife is no tool box.

Liverpool’s only summer signing Ibrahima Konate enjoyed an impressive first Premier League appearance since signing from RB Leipzig for £36m.

The Frenchman appeared to be the perfect accompaniment to Virgil Van Dijk, and he will surely be a huge player for the club.

James Milner is Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s Mr Reliable

But who is the natural full-back to deputise for Alexander-Arnold, should he one day suffer an injury similar to that of Van Dijk?

Milner is a worthy safety blanket but should an injury to somebody like Fabinho happen at the same time, he would need to cover the same 10km he sprinted and ran at Anfield twice over.

Every single Liverpool player would be happy to occupy unnatural positions so much to the point they would don the goalkeeping jersey is Klopp was to do so.

But, willingness does not always translate into quality, and a Swiss army knife, while useful, can only replace so many things.

James Milner and Fabinho have all had to play in unfamiliar positions when injuries or suspensions have affected the Liverpool team

Liverpool fans may remember the brief period when Jordan Henderson had to partner Fabinho at central defence, when Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, and Van Dijk all had their seasons ended by injuries.

At one point it looked like the holes had been suitably plugged and a footballing revolution appeared to be on the cards.

This forced experiment was deployed for nine matches – Liverpool were beaten in five of those.

Sometimes unorthodox measures are required to stem floods and plug holes, but half measures like these only last for so long until they are burst open.

Liverpool learnt their lesson quickly, bringing in Ozan Kabak and developing Nathaniel Phillips to the side.

They miraculously recovered from the set back and managed to finish in third place.

Konate’s arrival will likely prevent this central-defence injury crisis from happening again, but the fortifications are not so strong at right-back.

Milner deserves credit for his performance at Anfield, but in the long-term, another addition will surely be needed.

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