Naby Keita has played well in recent weeks but he found a different level against Chelsea. The Guinean had a true box-to-box performance.
A night to remember
It was always going to be one to remember as Liverpool picked up the Premier League trophy. Keita, however, made sure to leave his mark on the night.
Liverpool’s no.8 leathered in his side’s first with a fantastic strike from the edge of the box. It crashed in off the crossbar, leaving Kepa Arrizabagala without a hope and leaving fans wondering where that’s been.
Because Keita certainly isn’t known for his goals. In fact, as we pointed out in our ‘Five things we learned‘ after the match, Keita doesn’t even average a shot per game in the league. He managed 0.6, which is crazy when he’s capable of hitting efforts like this.
This wasn’t a hit-and-hope. Keita meant exactly what happened and it was the goal of a player with real potential for scoring.
Keita wasn’t just about his goal, though. He also managed four tackles in the game, a figure only Fabinho (5) bettered on the pitch. Again, that’s well above Keita’s usual – he averages 1.5 in the Premier League.
And that wasn’t all. Keita also completed 88% of his passes, which only Gini Wijnaldum bettered in red.
This was a complete performance. He scored like a forward, tackled like a defender, and completed his passes like a midfielder. A true box-to-box display.
A different kind of Keita
We can safely say that we haven’t seen the best of Keita since he arrived for £53m two years ago. He’s shown flashes of real promise but failed to perform with any real consistency.
We wrote those pieces off the back of some very good performances from Keita. Specifically, his last two starts against Aston Villa and Brighton. His pressing and passing in those games caught the eye and he registered an assist in each.
What’s particularly exciting then, is that Keita played a different game against Chelsea and still thrived. He didn’t actually make any key passes, unlike against Villa and Brighton.
But by scoring and tackling, he showed that there’s far more to his game than being solely a creative midfielder.
The Jurgen Klopp dream
Being able to do it all in midfield is the Klopp dream. Liverpool’s options there are littered with players capable of playing defensively or offensively, possession or counter-attacking. All have had great defensive displays and all have had their important goals.
And so it’s fantastic to see Keita show that he can do the same. It makes him another one of those dream Klopp players, capable of executing whatever gameplan the boss goes with.
All together, it makes Keita one of the more exciting players to watch next season. It’ll be his third season and it’s arguably make-or-break for him. Recent weeks suggest he’s going to make it big.