James Dutton ponders England’s use of James Milner this summer, and wonders whether he can have a similar impact on the national team as Owen Hargreaves did in 2006…
It’s fashionable to knock James Milner. His sheer unfashionability demands it.
Milner has a certain longevity which is barely credible. He broke Wayne Rooney’s short-lived record as the youngest Premier League goalscorer nearly 12 years ago in December 2002 at 16 years and 309 days. He won 46 caps for the England U21s, over a five-year period, a total that he has only recently passed with the senior side – cap number 47 coming, ironically, filling in at right-back.
He was the recipient of the 2009-10 Young Player of the Year award, in his eighth season as a professional footballer, which says as much about the credentials of that award as it does Milner’s unspectacular consistency in the years leading up to it.
Everyone expected something different from Milner. When a 16-year old breaks the Premier League’s youngest goalscorer record you’re inclined to expect something more fantastical than what Milner has offered during his dependable and steady career. Continue reading →
In the fourth installment of ‘Tacticle Your Fancy’, Simon Smithdiscusses the merits of Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov and explores the idea of a back ‘three and a half’…
This has been a strange week for Manchester City’s full backs. I basically love Aleksandar Kolarov, but I strongly hate the constant popular analysis of him. It’s not that it’s wrong, on Match of the Day when the pundits gather round and highlight his attacking penetration but defensive shortcomings, or when the fans are rightly frustrated when a lapse in his concentration allows yet another testy ball into a dangerous area.
No, that does very well summarize the issue in Pellegrini playing him. The reason I hate that isn’t because of its inaccuracy but for the same reason I detest comparisons between Theo Walcott and defensive workhorse James Milner, why I loathe it when an old reliable like Ashley Cole is held up as an example of what Kolarov should try and emulate. These players play in the same part of the pitch, but they are far from the same position.
So to find myself enjoying not only Kolarov’s performance against the unfortunate Newcastle United on Sunday but also the quality of analysis on Match of the Day 2 was something of a surprise. Was there more detail than usual, a clever insight into his role I had missed? No, just the usual pointing out of his wide attacking overlapping with Silva cutting inside: an interesting feature but one prevalent in many top sides and a regular tactic of Mancini before Pellegrini.
What made the analysis good was what was left unsaid. Kolarov was effectively analyzed as if he was a midfielder in City’s 2-6-2 formation. Continue reading →
Making his debut for The False Nine, Greg Johnson casts his eye over the country’s antiquated outlook on football, and bemoans the cult of the individual hero…
Phil Jones’ second season at Manchester United began muted by injury. The sight of him initially struggling to find form felt strangely and shamefully satisfying, and yet as he limped off on Monday night against Reading the only thoughts that one could conjure were those of loss and interruption.
A series of gut-busting displays last year flicked the switch on the Phil Jones hype machine, which quickly spiralled out of control. In no time at all, the versatile young defender was being touted as the nation’s latest elemental wonderkid and a future saviour and captain of England. It appeared amorphous potential and purely physical gifts had once again seduced pundits into holding faith in one of English football’s most dangerous and enduring myths: the cult of the individual hero. Continue reading →