Curtis Jones has surely now moved ahead of Naby Keita in the pecking order at Liverpool. The latter faces a fight for his place back.
Curtis Jones and Naby Keita appear to have a battle on. The duo faces a tough task when it comes to getting games, such is the quality in Liverpool’s midfield.
If they want to play consistently, they need to get ahead Thiago, Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Fabinho – when everyone is fit. Injuries open the door, though, and Jones has started back-to-back games as a result.
And the fact he took his chance against Atalanta is not good news for Keita. The £53m signing is now behind the teenager in the pecking order.
Diogo Jota was undoubtedly the star of the show but Jones had a very interesting performance. He played as a senior player, in truth, getting heavily involved and making things happen.
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For a 19-year-old, that’s an incredibly promising sign. For instance, Jones had more touches than any other player on the pitch. He also completed more passes than anyone else, including two key passes, assisting a goal with one.
The teenager also completed two dribbles and, importantly for Liverpool, he was solid defensively. Jones won one tackle, one interception, made a clearance, wasn’t dribbled past once, and was never dispossessed.
Which brings us to Keita, who has never had a game like this all season.
Keita has started games this season, too. He’s been in the XI for four Premier League games but has never put in the kind of performance Jones did.
For instance, those four starts brought about zero assists and zero goals. But the finer details don’t look good for Keita, either. Whereas Jones wasn’t dispossessed once v Atalanta, Keita was dispossessed at least once in every start.
None of Keita’s games were complete, either. He only won tackles in one start, only made interceptions in one start, and only made a key pass in one start. All in different starts, too.
Jones, then, deserves a run in the side. But more than that, he deserves to be above Keita in the pecking order when everyone is fully fit. Jones is showing he can play the all-around game that Liverpool like in midfield and even away in the Champions League.
And from that position, things don’t look good for Keita.
Jones is only going to get better, after all, making it an uphill battle. But it also means there will be very limited minutes for the Guinean.
He’s going to have to fight with everything he’s got, then, if Keita wants to finally settle at Liverpool.