Since Liverpool signed Naby Keita from RB Leipzig in July 2018, the Guinean has endured a troubled time on Merseyside.
Unfortunately for him, his inconsistencies have typically been down to injury concerns and a lack of match fitness. However, at the resumption of last season’s Premier League campaign, Keita came into his own and was arguably the Reds’ best player.
Since then, the 25-year-old’s new-found form has continued into the 2020-21 season. So, let’s take a look at why Keita could be Liverpool’s secret weapon in their pursuit of back-to-back league titles.
Showing Signs of Adapting
Following his £54-million move from Germany in the summer of 2018, Keita has missed 28 games through injury, with groin problems being a repeat occurrence for the midfielder, according to Transfermarkt. That said, since February 2020, he has managed to avoid any fitness issues as he continues his efforts to claim a regular first-team spot in Jurgen Klopp’s team.
At the time of writing, the former Leipzig and Salzburg midfielder has started each of Liverpool’s opening Premier League matches. Although he has yet to register a goal contribution, Keita possesses a higher xGBuildup90 (total expected goals of every phase of possession the player is involved in without key passes and shots) than his teammate, Georginio Wijnaldum, in addition to Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, as per Understat.
In many ways, however, his offensive offerings are indicative of the fact that he’s adapting to play in an evolving role. Unlike those around him in midfield, the 25-year-old is given the licence to roam on the right-hand side of a midfield three. Interestingly, this freedom often sees Keita join Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane in pressing from the front.
Competition Will Bring Out the Best in Him
Regarding the six-time Champions League-winning team’s squad, Klopp has plenty of options at his disposal concerning midfielders. Along with Keita, the German can also choose between Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Thiago Alcantara, and several others. In their own right, many of the above names should be first-team starters. However, that’s what makes this Liverpool team so dangerous.
Not only will this strength in depth be pivotal in the Reds’ search for consecutive Premier League titles from a quality standpoint, but it also enables Klopp to rotate to avoid fatigue and injuries. In turn, this will allow Liverpool to compete across numerous tournaments, such as the FA Cup. As of September 30th, Klopp’s side are 11/2 with football betting to win the competition that they last clinched back in 2006.
If Keita Can Stay Fit, Liverpool Have a Top Player on Their Hands
Ultimately, Klopp is well aware of the 25-year-old’s talent, and that’s reflected in the fact that he’s been his go-to creator in midfielder thus far in the new season. Of course, Thiago’s arrival will raise the level of expectation on the club’s existing players, but Keita’s press-orientated style makes him somewhat indispensable to Liverpool’s attack-minded approach. Should he stay fit, then Liverpool may have the key to unlocking deep-block defences.