Naby Keita- The midfield maestro Liverpool needed
Naby Keita's first season at Liverpool so far, it is fair to say, has more downs than ups. He started the season off fairly well, but then sustained an injury which put him out for a few weeks. He never really looked the same after he came back from the injury though, especially with Klopp preferring to play a more conservative midfield trio of Henderson, Milner, and Wijnaldum. There were also some rumors linking him away from Merseyside already.
Finally, after nearly an entire season, the Kop can finally see the player they paid over £50 million for. In the last couple of games, he has shown his quality and has reminded Klopp of what he has been missing so far. He's been quick on the ball, his dribbling is fantastic, his vision was something even an eagle would be envious of, and most importantly, he was dynamic and creative in a relatively dull midfield.
For a player who had only registered 1 assist until the Southampton game, scoring 2 goals in 2 games has put him in high regard amongst the Anfield faithful and has given Klopp a well-deserved selection headache. His match against Porto was definitely his best game yet and that match truly revealed what we might expect from him for the rest of the season.
He was a constant threat to the Porto defenders, making darting runs into the attacking third while causing all kinds of problems. This change in performance may also have to do with the midfield selection that Klopp chose. For the match against Porto, the midfield trio was Henderson, Fabinho and Keita.
The inclusion of two CDM’s relieved Keita of some of his defensive duties and thus he was allowed to venture forward. He created 2 chances for his teammates while also registering 2 shots himself. He had also completed 3 dribbles and also had a very commendable passing accuracy of 86%.
He was influential in not only the attack but also in defense, having had 2 interceptions and also completing 8 out of 10 tackles, the highest of any player on the pitch. Although his goal was an obvious deflection off a Porto defender, it set the mood for the rest game. His runs into the opponent box not only complements his ability to pass in half spaces, but they also draw defenders out, which gives the wingers some free space to cause some damage.
With Oxlade-Chamberlain still coming back from his injury, and Lallana being 32 years old, and also very injury prone, Keita had the perfect opportunity to cement his place in the starting lineup. And if his game against Porto was anything to go by, it doesn’t seem like anyone will be taking his place anytime soon. With the legendary no. 8 shirt already on his back, he might well be the perfect Steven Gerrard replacement Liverpool so badly need.