With two goals and one assist, Naby Keita had endured a difficult debut Premier League season from a statistical standpoint. April has been a breakthrough month for the former RB Leipzig man in front of goal, however, and the footballing world is beginning to realise his worth.
Naby Keita Finally Proving His Value
The Guinean arrived last August with a great deal of expectation heaped on him. He assumed the vacated number eight shirt, which previously belonged to none other than club legend Steven Gerrard.
Liverpool fans also had to wait a painstakingly long time before Keita arrived at Anfield, which only contributed to the ‘hype’ surrounding his move. Though the Reds had successfully agreed terms in August 2017, Keita would officially become a Liverpool player in July the following year.
On paper, Keita was the perfect signing and exactly what Liverpool required to take them to the next level. He is the quintessential Jurgen Klopp player: energetic, dynamic and capable of turning defence into attack in a heartbeat.
Besides contributing to the ‘gegenpress’, his ability to add goals from midfield would have also caught Klopp’s eye. At RB Salzburg, for example, he racked up an impressive 12 goals in 25 games during the 2015/16 campaign.
Inevitably, rival fans on social media took to weighing him up against the likes of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. Before he had even begun, there was a great deal of pressure and doubt beginning to circulate; for many, this has been justified by his two goals and the lone assist.
Whilst Liverpool have had an outstanding season, admittedly Keita has not hitherto been as directly active in the goal-scoring department as people might have envisaged. In reality, though, he has still been instrumental in a variety of ways despite being subject to scrutiny and not always grabbing the headlines.
Worth His Weight In Gold
After a long wait, his first goal eventually came on 5th April in a 3-1 victory against Southampton. Three weeks on, he slotted home his second league goal in a 5-0 demolition job against Huddersfield Town.
The 24-year-old, moreover, had to wait until January for his first assist. This came against Crystal Palace in a 4-3 thriller, though he is yet to build on this solitary tally.
Away from statistics, however, Naby Keita has performed a vital function and is often indispensable to Jurgen Klopp’s tactical vision. It is, ultimately, no coincidence that Liverpool have never lost in the Premier League when he has played.
As demonstrated against Chelsea, he masterfully dictates the tempo of the game and has the propensity to inspire composure throughout the team.
Against Huddersfield, Keita showcased his marvellous pressing ability time and time again. Not only did he win the ball off Jon Stankovic fifteen seconds into proceedings, but he then finished off the move.
Liverpool already have a deadly forward trio to score goals, which is made more potent by Keita facilitating attacking moves from deep.
An Exciting Evolution
Often likened to N’Golo Kante, he truly is the full package when he turns on the style. In the Bundesliga, he had more of a license to burst forward and score goals, but it is arguably more satisfying to watch him adapt and evolve into this new role.
If he can find a way to add more goals and assists to his game in the Premier League, then he will soon fall into the ‘world-class’ bracket. At 24, the potential of Naby Keita is scary, and one must feel now that a beast has awoken.
Indeed, Sadio Mane declared that “We have a lot more to see from him and I am sure we will see it”. Similarly Patrik Berger, who traded Bundesliga for Premier League football in the 1990s, insisted that Keita can still be a ‘massive’ player. Will he? Only time will tell.
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