Why James Milner Must Remain in Manchester City Calculations

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Why James Milner Must Remain in Manchester City Calculations
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There were many stars in the Manchester City team that beat Bayern Munich 3-2 in the Allianz Arena—a side who had won 10 straight Champions League matches and 18 consecutive home games, and hadn’t been beaten in the Bundesliga in 2013.

It was a remarkable result, especially given City fielded a largely second-string side.

With Saturday’s huge Premier League match with Arsenal on manager Manuel Pellegrini’s mind, out went Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Alvaro Negredo who were rested, whilst Matija Nastasic and Gael Clichy were missing through injury.

Javi Garcia performed brilliantly in midfield, a player who has been subjected to criticism from all quarters this season, and David Silva returned to the side and pulled the strings all night until he was withdrawn late on. In fact, right across the side there were outstanding performances.

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However, it was James Milner who arguably stole show, with a typically industrious performance topped off by his involvement in all three goals. He assisted the first after a brave header back across goal, won the penalty for the second and scored the third with a neat finish into the bottom corner.

It’s a night Milner will never forget, and it was just the boost the Yorkshireman needed after a season which has seen him in and out the side and struggling to get any kind of form going. 

Milner is a player who divides opinion. City fans know full well the value he brings to the side, yet those on the outside often wonder exactly what he does. Supporters who watch him week in week out recognise his commitment, his range of passing and his unbelievable fitness levels. Others see a player with no discernible quality, who they say should be nowhere near the England side.

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Last season, he was one of the few members of City's squad who could be proud of their efforts, having forced his way into the side midway through the season and staying there.

Up until December he had been used infrequently, but a string of excellent performances during the Christmas period meant he became a mainstay in the side. He'll be hoping for a similar pattern this season.

His problem now is that all four of City's first-choice midfield are in fine form. Milner undoubtedly performs better in central-midfield, but Yaya Toure and new signing Fernandinho have formed a superb partnership and aren't going to be shifted any time soon. Toure has added goals to his myriad of qualities, and Fernandinho has been City's most consistent performer.

And on the flanks, where Milner can also operate, City are blessed with Silva, their best player by some distance, and Samir Nasri, a player in brilliant form after a dreadful 2012/13 season.

His chances are limited due to the quality of the competition he faces.

That's not to say he can't continue to add value. His versatility means he will get chances, and his performance against Bayern could be the catalyst for a return to his form of last season.

James Milner is an asset to this City side—he's proven that countless times, and it would be foolish to think he can't do it again.

 

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.

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