Posted tagged ‘James Milner’

Too much hype surrounding James Milner?

May 21, 2010

“Hey, that guy has a vague chimpunk-like quality about him,” they used to say. Well not any more. These days James Milner is being lauded as England’s second best hope of achieving semi-final penalty heartbreak in South Africa, the man to guide Manchester City to their first Premier League title and Aston Villa’s most prized asset.

Of these three, the most accurate is probably the last one, but such have been the 24-year-old’s performances this

James Milner: world beater?

 season, the inevitable hype! hype! hype! has followed.

Back in January Milner was still not guaranteed to make Fabio Capello’s England squad for this summer’s World Cup, but since Gareth Barry’s ankle ligament injury, the Aston Villa man is now being touted by many to start England’s opening game next to Frank Lampard in the centre of midfield. As well as this, it was also announced that Villa had turned down a £20 million offer for the player from Manchester City yesterday.

All of this raises a few questions. Firstly, when and how did Milner go from being a useful option for Capello who has showed this season that he can play anywhere across the midfield to being worth £20 million, or half a Cesc Fabregas as one newspaper handily put it?

And secondly, do City really believe that Milner is the player they need to propel their title ambitions for next season considering the unlimited funds at their disposal?

The first question can easily be put to bed. The media and public are desperate to ignore the fact that, with Gareth Barry far from certain to be fit for England’s opener on 12 June, there just isn’t a decent back-up option. We all realise this, but instead of admitting it, we are now pretending Milner is one of the great midfield generals of the game. Gareth Barry who?

Milner was indeed a revelation for Villa this season as he moved in-field to play along Stiliyan Petrov. However, despite his promising displays, he was often subdued when playing the bigger teams, as shown in the League Cup final against Manchester United. He may well have the ability to get England through the group games, but I doubt whether he has the know-how to excel against the better teams in the latter stages of the competition. One would hope Barry would be back by then.

On to the second question, which is a bit trickier. If City had finished fourth, I don’t think they would be giving Milner even a second glance. Instead they would have turned their attentions to someone with Champions League experience ( I know Milner has some, but so does Kieran Richardson if we’re playing like that) who has some international pedigree. As it is City now know it will be harder to attract that sort of player, having only qualified for the Europa League for next season.

Despite this, however, Roberto Mancini has already said City aim to win the Premier League next season, but do they really expect to do so with James Milner at the heart of this? Undoubtedly he is a good player, but is he any better than Stephen Ireland is when given a proper run in the team?  And perhaps more importantly, would he take the place of either Gareth Barry or the excellent Nigel De Jong? I’m not so sure.

Milner has proved his versatility this season, and his impressive performances in the centre of midfield show he has what it takes to play there. But after just one season of doing, I don’t think he is ready to make the step up to England starter, or someone who City should be obtaining to win the league for them. Maybe in a few years, but just not yet.