While Naby Keita made huge progress in his Liverpool development following an impressive performance against Norwich City earlier this month, the Guinea international took two steps back following an uninspiring display against West Ham on Monday night.
Keita, 25, was given the nod over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to compete in Liverpool’s midfield trident in the absence of club-captain Jordan Henderson who suffered a hamstring injury during the Reds’ 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid.
However, the former RB Leipzig talisman struggled to make any consistent impact against David Moyes’ side and was far too naive in possession giving the ball away on numerous occasions.
Keita still remains one of the few enigma’s of Liverpool’s transfer success during Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool riegn after the Reds activated the former RB Leipzig midfielder’s release clause for a fee of £48m [BBC Sport]
It perhaps typifies his Anfield tenure following his move from the Bundesliga in 2018 with the talented playmaker still failing to affect the game infrequent moments lacking that needed cut-edge approach in his end play.
Keita has a tendency to be a bit too optimistic with his passing and it can unsettle the Anfield crowd gifting away possession to the opposition so easily when they have become accustomed to Henderson’s ability of slowly breaking down the opposition with a more patient approach.
This isn’t a criticism of Keita’s unquestionable quality but rather his ability to adapt to the Jurgen Klopp style of play. Liverpool have become the most adaptable team in the Premier League and their greatest strength is that they have several different formulas in breaking down opponents.
It is worth noting, however, that Keita is still yet to start more than two consecutive matches all season and his longest run of starts for the team is just four meaning that despite being at the club for nearly two years, he is yet to build any significant momentum in the team.
Sadly for Keita, there is added pressure when playing for a team that is littered in world-class players in practically every position in the team meaning if someone isn’t pulling their weight it, therefore, becomes more obvious.
Keita will continuously be held to higher standards the more the team improve. Sometimes it takes a prolonged run of games for a player to actually learn what his role in the team is. Fabinho had to wait until November 2018 before he was entrusted with the responsibility of regularly embodying his manager’s principles and philosophies into his own performances.
While it may be tempting to reinstate Oxlade-Chamberlain back into the team following an impressive second-half cameo on Monday night it may not benefit Keita going forward that every time he has the off-game for his team he will be reinstated to the bench.
With all things in life, only time will tell regarding whether Keita can vindicate his price-tag as well as filling the gargantuan void that comes with the No.8 shirt he inherited from predecessor Steven Gerrard.
However, in a team as formidable as Liverpool, time cannot be guaranteed in a team that has harnessed the mentality of serial winners.