Milner To Leave City?

Jan Kruger

Daniel Taylor of the Guardian hints at that possibility...

Oh, Jim! You can't leave us. But this report from The Guardian states that Milner's exit from Man City is a very real possibility, and to Arsenal no less (boo, hiss etc):

Milner's belief is that he would get more games elsewhere and the chance to play in the central midfield position that has continually been denied him at City. His complaint predominantly stems around his lack of matches, having started only 12 times in the league this season, but he has been frustrated as well that when he joined the club from Aston Villain 2010 he was told it was to play in central midfield. Instead he has been largely used as a wide midfielder by Roberto Mancini and now Manuel

Standard leak from a player who is either genuinely unhappy or....

City would be reluctant to lose Milner even without those regulations and hope the offer of a lucrative four-year contract will persuade him to change his mind. Yet the player informed them last month of his decision and is strongly tempted by the interest from Arsenal and Liverpool.

Now then, this could be interpreted as a flirt for more cash. I'm not saying it is, but others may well do. Milner and his agent are within their rights to try and negotiate the best deal possible, this includes not only the wage packet but perhaps guarantees about Milner's position during the minutes he does play.

A few questions:

  • Is Milner correct to leak to the press his unhappiness with the amount of minutes played during 13/14?
  • Did Milner impress during the 13/14 season?
  • Does Milner have a case to feature in a central midfield role?
  • Should Milner be awarded a new, and rich, 4 year contract at the age of 28?

League Minutes In 13/14

Image

See Milner in there? Jim featured more away from home in the PL but he was seldom used overall. Milner featured less than every other wide player or full-time central midfielder - his apparent preferred position.

Milner played just 40% of the available minutes in the PL for Manchester City in 13/14. Milner was neither a regular wide player, nor a regular midfielder. He's a plug and play type for a talented and deep Man City team. There's no shame in that, but there may well be resentment that he is not of greater worth to this team.

Did Milner Impress?

Almost impossible to answer without watching nearly all of Man City's games. It is also nearly impossible to answer for us fans who likely hold pre-conceived bias - positive or negative - toward the player.

Milner played well in certain games, that is for sure, he added stability and performed well in attacking roles when needed. But I certainly wouldn't say that the entirety of Milner's 13/14 contribution was outstanding. Milner shone brightly in certain games, but is that enough? Was Milner consistent enough considering what is now required of a starter for this Man City team?

Milner's best quality is his ability to play in a variety of positions and to be trusted to do so. But this is exactly the kind of judgement that Milner wants to move away from. He likely no longer wants to be known as the jack of all trades, but instead as a midfield specialist. This is a problem.

Does Milner have a case to feature in a central midfield role?

He likely has a case for he possesses a wide range of in-demand skills and is tactically astute enough to be trusted in most game situations. Sounds like an all-round modern midfielder. but there are two problems Milner faces:

  1. The two managers he has played for at Man City haven't picked him in this position.
  2. This is probably due to Milner's competition for the central midfield position.
Two different managers arrived at the same conclusion " we have better options than you for the central midfield role".

Can Milner outperform Toure's midfield output? No.
Does Milner have the same range of skills as Fernandinho and the ability to display those on a consistent basis? No.
Can Milner play as a holding midfielder? Probably not.

If the answers to the above questions are all no then it is difficult to see how Milner could have his demands to feature regularly in central midfield met.

Should Milner Be Awarded A 4 Year Contract?

James Milner is 28 and although he is in tremendous condition, it is likely that he has peaked both physically and as a footballer. This isn't an overly pessimistic view, it's just that we likely know what we have in the player and what he can and cannot do barring a Toure-like maturation of his skills. 28 year old players don't usually get better and unless their game evolves due to a spike in their tactical understanding they tend to ever so slowly get worse as their physical powers decline.

James Milner's possible decline by the age of 32 should make Man City very wary in awarding a 4 year contract. A 3 year contract on terms favourable to both player and club would be a happy compromise, but Milner would surely be signing such a contract knowing that, either consciously or subconsciously, he is unlikely to see a great leap in minutes played or that he will feature regularly in a central midfield role.

Only injury to team-mates or an as yet unseen (at least at City) ability to play midfield will see Milner have his wish to play centrally actually granted.

Call me cynical but if Milner signs a new contract at City this whole episode was likely to have been about squeezing a few extra £'s from the club, which is fine. If Milner declines a new contract and decides to leave then his wish to play central midfield will have been real indeed and will supersede any desire for the richest pay packet available.

I want Milner to stay, probably not as much as others, but I still want him to be a part of this football club. It is just that any extended stay will see Milner as neither a player that plays over 70% of the minutes available nor as a player who plays regularly as a central midfielder.


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