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Halfway review: was Naby Keita worth the wait?

Naby Keita is halfway through his first year at Liverpool. How has the midfielder got on?

How it looked then

Liverpool had to wait to get Keita. It was no secret that they chased him throughout the summer of 2017 but RB Leipzig wouldn’t budge.

Then, with the window about to close, a deal was agreed a year in advance; Keita would join Liverpool in July 2018.

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He looked perfect for the Reds and Jurgen Klopp, too. Keita is a dynamic, athletic midfielder who can carry the ball and link with the attack.

Yes, they had to wait but Keita looked like the ideal compliment to Liverpool’s hard-working midfield.

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Keita could bring the drive that they lacked and was arguably the most exciting arrival last summer.

Keita at halfway

He started very brightly, playing with swagger and drive over his debut games. There was, understandably, a lot of excitement over Keita’s potential as he developed in the side.

Halfway through his first year, however, and those first couple of games remain the highlight. Keita hasn’t kicked on and instead looks quite timid compared to the player we first saw.

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He’s had trouble with injuries, it should be said, and Klopp’s change from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 hasn’t suited Keita.

It’s meant that his position has frequently been out on the left of midfield, rather than the centre. That’s not ideal for him, although many of his problems haven’t been positional.

Keita isn’t running with the ball or passing with the quality he did at first and he certainly isn’t asserting himself on games. The first two, in particular, shouldn’t be affected by his position.

He’s been the most disappointing of Klopp’s recruits so far, it’s fair to say.

Keita’s future with Liverpool

No one’s giving up on Keita halfway through his first season – far from it. Most simply want to see him in a more suitable position, while you have to remember he’s still young.

Liverpool could do with him as a viable option, however, rather than just a player trying to fit in.

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He must find his place over the second half of the season or risk falling out of favour, especially as the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could marginalise him over the run-in.

Still, he’s a young player with a lot of ability. Klopp won’t give up on him when there’s still so much promise there.

Keita just needs to show it soon if he wants to play a big role this season. Beyond that, it’s looking likely that it’ll be easier to pass proper judgement in a year – it’s only been six months, after all.

Let’s hope it’s a good one.

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