Press conferenceJames Milner on Napoli test, finding consistency and putting things right

Published 31st October 2022
By James Carroll and Chris Shaw at Anfield

James Milner wants Liverpool to use Tuesday's Champions League encounter with SSC Napoli as an opportunity to begin the process of regaining consistency.

Both teams are already qualified for the last 16 of the tournament from Group A – and only a victory of four or more clear goals would see the Reds clinch top spot on the final matchday.

However, Jürgen Klopp's side head into the contest on the back of defeats by Nottingham Forest and Leeds United in the Premier League, albeit with an emphatic win over AFC Ajax in Amsterdam in between.

Napoli, meanwhile, will journey to L4 on a 13-game winning streak and are unbeaten so far in 2022-23.

Ahead of the game, Milner tackled a range of questions from the media during a pre-match press conference. Read on to see what the vice-captain had to say…

On the reasons for Liverpool's inconsistency...

I think if it was one easy fix you'd know and you'd fix it. Obviously, to be a successful football team, there are so many little things you need to do well – and at this moment in time, we're not doing enough of those consistently enough. We have shown very good performances this year, but we haven't had that consistency and that's something we need to improve.

On Liverpool's current confidence levels...

I think the next game is always the one we focus on and one where you can start a good run and get that consistency and confidence back. I think the performances we have had, some very good performances this year as well, [so] we know it's not too far off, but it's important we keep delivering every three days. It has been an intense start to the season, it has been quite hard to get the rhythm with a few players being out and not getting a settled line-up. That is something we have to deal with – and deal with better. The beauty of having so many games in such a short space of time, it is a great chance for us to go out there and start putting it right.

On whether the players will be aiming to win the group or will have thoughts of Sunday's trip to Tottenham in their minds...

No, all we can focus on is the next game and the biggest aim in the Champions League is to get out of the group, first and foremost. We've managed that; not the easiest group, but we've managed that and I think it's a great opportunity to play a very good team, who are in great form. It is a great test for us to go up against them and hopefully, first and foremost, try to put in a good performance and win the game – that's the main thing.

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Pre-Napoli press conference

On whether his role as one of the squad's senior players has taken on extra importance...

It does. I've seen and experienced pretty much most things in the game. It's important you look at some of the younger guys who have been very fortunate to be involved at a very successful time. We've had disappointments before in the group, but that's probably been missing out on the league title by one point here and there and losing finals. This is a different sort of disappointment which we haven't been through as a team too much, which is a positive. It is important that nothing really changes, we have to keep working hard, we have to stick together and we have to focus on the next game. We have to try to keep the dressing room positive. As we've said, there have been some very good performances this year as well, so it shows we're not far off but it is about getting that consistency and trying to do that week in, week out.

On whether conceding early goals has impacted the team's mentality...

I don't think that helps, going behind puts yourselves up against it. It shows the character in the amount of games we've come back and managed to turn around, ones where we've fought to the end and things like that. It is not ideal and that is something we can try to improve – and that's a big aim. The attitude of the boys and the fight is always there.

On whether he can draw on any past experiences at the moment...

Football, it always comes back to the same thing – in times when things aren't going well, especially at a massive club like Liverpool, there are going to be question marks, questions outside and criticism and deservedly so with the standards we've set for ourselves over the last few years. It's so important we stick together and the opinions within the dressing room are the only ones that count. Can we help each other out? Can we work harder? Can we keep trying to fix the things? Analyse the games – things we're doing well, things we're not doing well – and try to put it right. That's the main thing. Like I said before, the beauty of having so many games in quick succession [is] it gives us another chance quickly to try to put it right.

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On 'shutting out outside noise' and whether he makes a conscious effort to do that currently…

I can only answer that personally – I don't take too much notice, to be honest, whether things are good or bad because that's football, things change very quickly. You can't get too high when things are going well and you can't get too low when things aren't. Football is full of that and the more you keep an even keel [the better]. That's your job, to get interest and have opinions, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But when things are going well they are going to be blown out of proportion; win the first six games of the season and you're going to go unbeaten and if you have a bad run you're going to get relegated. That's the way of the world. For us, that doesn't help – we have to focus on the next game, try to perform as well as we can and try to get a result.

On whether there is 'anger or frustration' in the dressing room about the team's form…

Yeah, obviously, there is always frustration. The expectations we have on ourselves, the expectations the fans have and how we've performed over recent years and the success we've had, obviously when things don't go well it's tough and you're frustrated and you're trying to put it right. The performances are there in certain games, which obviously isn't ideal because it shows we're not a million miles off but we're not performing to the level we should be consistently enough and that's something we definitely have to work hard to put it right.

On the impact injuries have had on the squad this season…

I think so. When we talk about consistency, that comes from having a settled line-up, it comes from rotation within those positions to give people a rest, keep them fresh. I think that is obviously an impact. You have players maybe playing more games than they would like or players coming back from injuries and being put back into the team straight away when really they could be eased back in. So, it definitely doesn't help. But that's something that's part of football, that's something we've had in years gone by and something we've dealt with better at times, so it's something we can step up and deal with again. It is obviously a factor but that's part of football. The amount of games we've had, the amount of games we had last year and the short rest, it is going to be a factor. It is obviously always a conversation of how many games teams play and how many matches [are] played. That's unfortunately part of football.

On whether he has made any plans for his own career beyond this season…

No. Like I said, at this moment in time the most important thing is us trying to get to a level we want to be at consistently and I'm trying as best I can to help influence that. Whatever the manager asks me to do, whatever position that is or whatever role he wants me to take up, I'm ready to do that. Touch wood, hopefully I can stay fit.

On Napoli, their midfield  and the chances of beating them by four to top the group…

I think Napoli are obviously a very good team. We've seen how well they have played, not just this season – they are unbeaten, top of the league and how they have played in the Champions League obviously. They had a great finish to last season as well. So they are a team who are full of confidence. The midfield is one strong area of the team. But I think that's why they are doing so well, because they are strong all over the field, they know what they're doing, they're playing as a team and they have got good individual players as well.

For us, the most important thing first and foremost is to go out and put in a good performance. That's what we want to do, we want try to win the game. It's a perfect game for us; obviously when things aren't going well, you're coming up against one of the best teams in Europe at this moment in time and it's a great test for us to be able to go out there and hopefully put in a performance we can build on from there.

Published 31st October 2022