James Milner proves his worth for Manchester City

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There are few things football fans enjoy more than criticising James Milner, but yesterday the midfielder showed exactly why he's held in such high regard by managers.

Ask any England fan what he brings to the the national team and you'll likely get three answers: hard work, reliability and versatility. Not exactly complimentary words for a man who's made almost 400 Premier League appearances by the age of 28.

Anyone who viewed yesterday's clash between Manchester City and Chelsea may now have a slightly different opinion of the England man after he produced a performance of genuine quality.

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As well as offering his usual work rate and tactical nous Milner, was a genuinely effective winger, causing his full-back constant headaches and providing the cross which lead to Frank Lampard's equaliser.


Such is Manuel Pellegrini's trust in the midfielder, Milner has been named in the starting line-up for the club's two biggest league games of the season - the trip to Arsenal and yesterday's visit of Chelsea.

While he may not be a man who makes 30+ starts a season, when the big games come around, Milner often goes straight into the team.

His inclusion isn't a mere coincidence either, speaking to the club's official website Pellegrini said: "Every time that Milner plays I think he does well, and he is a very important player for us."

Though perhaps unspectacular at times, this is a man managers put their faith in when it really matters.

Attacking threat

Lining up against Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta, Milner was facing one of the league's most consistent full-backs.

Was the England man phased? Of course not. His tenacious style of play caused the Spaniard trouble, and his link-up with Pablo Zabaleta provided genuine moments of attacking class.

With City trailing, in the title race as well as the league, Milner arrived on the end of a floated David Silva pass to perfectly cushion a cross into the path of Lampard, and you know what happened next.

The attention was all on the Chelsea legend coming back to haunt his former club, but Milner's expert cross came at a time when City needed something special.


What made Milner's late impact even more impressive was the way he'd been shuffled around the pitch after Zabaleta's irresponsible red card.

In the immediate aftermath, Milner slotted in at right-back before returning to his right-wing position once Bacary Sagna had been introduced in place of Edin Dzeko.

Within minutes, Jesus Navas replaced Fernandinho and Milner was asked to move to a central role alongside Yaya Toure.

When Lampard was brought on to rapturous applause from all sections of the Etihad, Milner found himself popping up on the left and it was from there that he created City's all-important equaliser.

Managers favourite

What was impressive about Milner's multi-positional performance was not his ability to perform a number of roles, but his willingness to.

Considering a lot of his City appearances come from the bench, he could be forgiven for causing a scene at being moved all over the pitch during a rare start, but that's not Milner.

Pellegrini knows that in any game, of any magnitude, he can count on Milner to perform in any position required, and do a good job.

That trust that managers have in him is invaluable, but it's important to remember you don't make nearly 400 Premier League appearances, earn 50 England caps and represent your country at three major tournaments just because you're reliable.

James Milner is a player with genuine quality, just ask Cesar Azpilicueta.

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James Milner
Manchester City
Premier League

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