The summer acquisition of James Milner plugged many gaping holes in this Liverpool side. However, the decision to name him the new vice-captain has brought a new one to light, the clear lack of leadership and long-term planning within the current Liverpool set-up.
Steven Gerrard’s departure to LA Galaxy saw Jordan Henderson thrusted into the limelight as the Reds’ new captain, after a season deputising the Anfield legend. Thus leaving a spot up for grabs within the squad hierarchy.
Manager Brendan Rodgers spoke of his decision to give the role to Milner and the reasons behind it:
He’s got big character and a big mentality, and I felt we needed that in the team to the extent where he will be the vice-captain this year.
It cannot be denied that Milner’s experience, having made his Premier League debut at the age of 16 will be invaluable. His tireless work ethic will also be key as he leads by example in a young Liverpool side.
However, the decision to name a player who has been at a club of Liverpool’s stature for less than three months sends out a message. This squad lacks the required leadership qualities.
Is it a fair judgement to make though? A number of experienced players remain at the club, such as Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho, who both have leadership experience and both I would have picked ahead of Milner.
The decision to overlook Martin Skrtel for the position is especially strange. It suggests a lack of confidence in the defenders mental qualities. Skrtel has been ever-present in the side for the past two seasons and recently signed a new contract.
Skrtel is also now Liverpool’s second longest-serving current player. Another accolade you would have thought would have made him a shoo-in, but apparently not.
With regards to Mamadou Sakho, it simply confirms what many fans already feared. Rodgers just doesn’t rate him. Sakho was captain at former club PSG, impressively, at the age of 17 and has been the French national team vice-captain for a number of years.
He has become popular amongst fans and numerous pictures and videos across social media suggests he is highly thought of within the squad.
Sakho looks likely to start the season behind Dejan Lovren, another questionable decision by Rodgers. The decision to overlook him for the vice-captaincy confirms Sakho is still far off securing an assured place in Rodgers’ plans. He is unlikely to put up with a limited role for much longer.
The desire to install a British deputy to Henderson would have played a role. However, Rodgers still therefore chose to overlook Adam Lallana, who captained Southampton, and Joe Allen, who shares a good relationship with his manager.
The main reason may well be simply, that Milner commands a starting spot in this Liverpool side more so than the other options (And is British). Something that will vindicate his decision to make the move in the summer.
However, with regards to long-term planning, this doesn’t appear to be well thought through. At the age of 29, it is unlikely that Milner will be commanding a starting spot in the side in two years time. And his £150,000-a-week wage means the club will not be keen to keep him too far into his thirties.
Perhaps it is hoped that by that time a player such as Emre Can will be ready to take on the role. Currently 21-years old, Can enjoyed a promising debut season at the club, being deployed out of position in defence for much of the year.
Besides Can, not many others spring to mind. Liverpool born youngster Jordan Rossiter will be seen as future captaincy material but we are far off making predictions about him that aren’t just premature.
However, Henderson’s meteoric rise to the captaincy was certainly not on the cards two years ago and it is anybody’s guess who will be leading this Liverpool side out as the years go by, just don’t expect it to be Mamadou Sakho.
Perhaps he could finally get Ashley Williams in.