Former England and Liverpool striker Roger Hunt dies aged 83
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In one of the most important games of the season, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was forced to play central midfielder James Milner as a right-back against Manchester City. Usual fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold suffered an injury in training which will keep him sidelined until after the international break.
The injury thankfully didn’t prove too costly against title rivals City as they drew the match 2-2, but they were very fortunate to even have the chance to earn a point considering how dominant the away side were throughout.
Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the 57th minute when he was played through by Mohamed Salah and coolly slotted past the onrushing Ederson.
However, Phil Foden equalised in the 69th minute when Gabriel Jesus cut in off the left and danced past several defenders before squaring it to the Englishman to equalise.
Then Salah provided a moment of magic in the 76th minute as he weaved past three different City defenders and squeezed his shot in from a very tight angle.
Kevin de Bruyne then equalised again in the 81st minute after he curled an effort into the far corner from the edge of the box following good work from Raheem Sterling down the left.
Although they did draw the game, the match did highlight a position in Liverpool’s team that could be their downfall this season – right back.
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Although a brilliant servant to the Reds, Milner was run ragged against his former club when tasked with dealing with constant waves of pressure from Phil Foden, as well as £100million signing Jack Grealish and onrushing full-back Joao Cancelo.
The 35-year-old didn’t have the speed or energy to keep up with the runs in behind him and was constantly requiring his teammates to clear up his mess.
Milner was fortunate not to give away a penalty in the first half when he clipped Foden’s heels just inches outside of the box, which surprisingly wasn’t even given as a free-kick by referee Paul Tierney.
He was then shown a yellow card in the 42nd minute when he dragged down Foden, again, who had breezed past him and was starting a sharp counter-attack.
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On the rare occasions that Klopp’s side did get forward, there was a missing piece of the jigsaw on the right-wing.
Filling in for one of the best right-backs in the world was always going to be a significant ask for Milner, but he did not provide anything in the final third to make Alexander-Arnold’s absence less noticeable.
At half-time, Reds legend Jamie Carragher spoke of how Milner was out of his depth in the fixture on Sky Sports: “He’s found it tough, as you would against Manchester City, and that shows the difference when you talk about Liverpool squad compared to Man City, that’s the only position where there’s no real backup for Liverpool.
“Trent misses out then you’ve got a midfield player at 35 playing at right-back so it’s just showing today.”
In the second half, Milner improved but he was still heavily targeted by the Cityzens and the arrival of Raheem Sterling did him no favours as he, again, struggled against a pacey winger.
City fans certainly feel the England international should have been dismissed too as he brought down Bernardo Silva in the 73rd minute, a foul that led Klopp to substituting his makeshift defender.
Liverpool signed just one player over the summer, central defender Ibrahima Konate, and instead chose to prioritise getting key players onto long-term contracts at Anfield.
The lack of cover in right-back, one of the most important positions in Klopp’s 4-3-3 system, led many to believe that cover would have been purchased, even at a low cost.
However, Milner, Konate, Joe Gomez and midfielder Fabinho were all viewed as sufficient cover, though Klopp’s judgement may have been wrong after Sunday’s performance.
Last season, it was the Reds’ lack of depth in the entire backline which meant that they could not challenge for the title, and if Alexander-Arnold is a long-term absentee then a January transfer will be required to stop that being the case again in this campaign.
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