The willingness and ability of James Milner to do whatever is needed to help Liverpool succeed is a testament to his importance to Jürgen Klopp’s side as they fight for silverware in five competitions this season.
Perhaps against expectations against such a strong attacking side, Liverpool won their first clean sheet away from home in Europe this season to Red Bull Salzburg, confirming their progression from the group.
All of Liverpool’s defensive players put in strong performances, including Joe Gomez, who came in for an injured Dejan Lovren early in the second half.
Following a hint of an injury against Bournemouth at the weekend (which turned out to be cramp), Lovren went off again against Salzburg, with Klopp describing it as a similar issue.
With Lovren now potentially out, joining Fabinho and Joel Matip on the injured list, Virgil van Dijk and Gomez are now the only two healthy centre-backs, meaning Gomez is therefore now unavailable to give Trent Alexander-Arnold any rest during a busy December.
Though the centrality of Gomez is clear, this bout of defensive injuries also emphasizes how lucky Liverpool are to have a multi-functional player like James Milner, who can slot in comfortably virtually anywhere on the pitch.
Though Milner has stated that he dislikes playing full-back, his full season at left-back for Liverpool in 2016/17 is the best illustration of his talent and versatility.
And although centre-back is the one outfield position Milner has not yet played, few would be overly surprised if he were the next choice should either of Van Dijk or Gomez suffer an injury (not that anyone wants to see that scenario play out).
Given the density of the fixture schedule this December, it is worth noting that Milner is now the only senior option to give either Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson a rest, and his quality and dependability mean that no one would panic to see his name on the team sheet for the occasional game. Liverpool lead the way in the title race, and leading online bookmaker https://www.online-sportwette.net/ has them as clear favourites to lift the title come the end of the season, despite this injury blow.
Against Salzburg, Milner came on as a substitute late in the second half for Roberto Firmino, playing a familiar role in the middle of the pitch aiming to keep the game well under control and maintain Liverpool’s lead.
His maturity and intelligence on the ball in his natural position is of great use to Klopp, who trusts Milner to keep a calm head in high-pressure situations, and his defensive efforts against Salzburg helped the side keep the clean sheet.
Having a player like Milner is incredibly useful for Liverpool, as he combines the intelligence garnered from a long career with the experience of a Premier League title-winning campaign at Manchester City and a Champions League-winning campaign with Liverpool.
This experience will be crucial now more than ever, as Milner is able to lead by example and in the dressing room and when rotated into the midfield three as Liverpool’s vice-captain, while simultaneously functioning as a second and third choice in several other positions.