Despite what can only be described as an injury-ridden opening to his Liverpool career, finally, we are starting to see the full effect Naby Keita’s influence can have on the team.

Following on from the Reds’ 2-1 defeat at Arsenal, it was actually Keita’s absence from the starting XI which highlighted Liverpool’s shortcomings after they were defeated in the league for only the third time this season.

However, what is quite staggering to believe is that in the five away fixtures Keita hasn’t been amongst Klopp’s starting line-up, Liverpool have managed zero victories or draws and have lost all five matches without the Guinean talisman on the road.

Liverpool’s Guinean midfielder Naby Keita (C) holds off a challenge from Arsenal’s English midfielder Joe Willock (L) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium in London on July 15, 2020. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by GLYN KIRK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Even when he came on against Arsenal, the 25-year-old was far more influential than his midfield colleagues. Despite only featuring for 30 minutes, Keita completed more dribbles than any other Liverpool player while Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain failed to manage a solitary completed dribble all game.

Achieving an impressive pass completion rate of 90 per cent, Keita utilised the ball extremely well when he was brought on for the disappointing Oxlade-Chamberlain, who really failed to impress upon his return to the Emirates Stadium.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Dale Stephens of Brighton & Hove Albion and Naby Keita of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Liverpool FC at American Express Community Stadium on July 08, 2020 in Brighton, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)

Our most innovative midfield option

In the fixtures Keita has started since the Premier League restart, he has been hugely influential. Against Brighton, it was Keita’s drive and relentless pressing that retrieved possession back for his team and directly led to two Liverpool goals.

He simply has to start next week against Chelsea.

 

Without club-captain Jordan Henderson, Liverpool’s midfield looked totally bereft of ideas and lacking a leading presence.

While Keita isn’t the most vocal in the team, he has proven to be the most innovative option in midfield when Jurgen Klopp is without his skipper and most trusted midfield trident.

Keita – who commanded a £48 million [Telegraph] fee to become a Liverpool player – gives Klopp’s midfield something different with his dynamism and creativity. The team lost their edge without the diminutive box-to-box midfielder who restricted to the bench at the Emirates.

Prior to the lockdown, Keita seemed a player with a point to prove. Now, he represents Klopp’s best option of inspiring some intensity from a team who have looked a shadow of themselves since being mathematically confirmed as champions of England.

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