This Could Be The Right Time For Naby Keita To Shine At Liverpool

Naby Keita’s Liverpool career hasn’t evolved as many had expected when he finally completed his £52.75m move from RB Leipzig in the summer of 2018.

The Guinean international was seen as being a box-to-box midfielder that would give The Reds more drive from the middle of the park.

Yet it was very much a stop and start maiden campaign for Naby at Anfield. While he did figure in thirty-three games for Liverpool and helped them to a Champions League title and a runners-up finish in the Premier League, he only made twenty starts in those two huge competitions. He also only scored three goals and created just one assist!

That’s not what was expected from a player who seemed to dictate things in the Bundesliga.

By the end of his debut campaign, Keita was struggling to break into Jurgen Klopp’s starting eleven. The likes of James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum were all ahead of Naby in the midfield pecking order.

Many regular readers of this blog will know that I always call for patience when it comes to new signings. I often don’t go out and overly judge a player during their first year at a club, especially if they’re changing leagues and countries.

At times last year the Guinean definitely seemed to struggle to get to grips with the pace that comes with the English game. He was also walking into a team that knew their system inside out and that can be daunting to a newcomer as there’s great pressure to walk in and be right up to speed straight away. If that wasn’t enough pressure the player was also handed the number eight shirt, you know the one that club legend Steven Gerrard had made his own for so many years!

Keita has also had injury issues to deal with. Muscular problems, knocks and a groin injury hampered his campaign last season. Then just as this term was kicking off, he would be out again with another muscle injury (Via That kept him out until late September.

Naby Keita has recently returned to the fold for this season. He played a minute against Salzburg in the Champions Legaue and an hour against MK Dons in the League Cup.

The midfielder stepped up his return by getting eight minutes under his belt against Manchester United yesterday.

It was a tight 1-1 game (BBC Match Report) and one that Liverpool struggled to get much out of. But Keita did come on and help swing things back in his side’s favour. He made 26 passes at Old Trafford and recorded an 84.6% success rate, not bad at all for a player coming on cold (Stats – Whoscored).

Liverpool’s midfield were a bit sloppy and not as urgent as they needed to be. Keita along with fellow substitutes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana helped give the team a boost when they really needed it. Naby found Andy Robertson on the left and the Scottish full-back then delivered a great ball into the box and Lallana tapped home the equaliser. The subs moved to be a turning point for The Reds.

Jurgen Klopp said after the game that the three subs changed the game:

“Then Naby was on, helped as well, fresh legs, being there, passing safe and then not always doing the obvious things, moving higher and passing the ball and that’s how the goal happened. We can pass the ball to Robbo and he has to run sideways and not make the ball or you can pass it exactly in that way and he can make the cross that we can score the goal. We were better with the three boys coming on, that helped a lot and I’m happy about that of course, especially about the fact that Adam scored this goal, a very important one.”


All great managers know that rotation could be key to a trophy laden season. Klopp knows that too. It’s important to see just when a regular starter might be on the verge of declining and need a rest. For me, that could be the case with Henderson and Wijnaldum. If that’s true, then Naby Keita has to be ready to come in and give the team the energy needed to win midfield battles.

Liverpool have been great this season but at times, like yesterday, they will find teams harder to break down and in those situations Keita could flourish. He seems comfortable playing slightly further forward and he’ll make passes that continue to probe the opposition.

Now that Naby Keita is more used to his surroundings he can maybe become the player that Liverpool were expecting him to be. It really could be a turning point for the African and it might come at a time when The Reds really need a wee bit more inspiration from their engine room!

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