Naby Keita played very well against Crystal Palace on Saturday. But that continues an awkward trend for the Liverpool midfielder.
Everyone played well against Crystal Palace, including Naby Keita. Liverpool did win 7-0 away from home, after all – that scoreline doesn’t suggest many passengers.
Thus Keita, too, had a very good game. He didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet, or assist a goal, but he was a defensive force.
He got a massive five tackles and four interceptions – no other player beat either figure. It’s also particularly notable because Keita only had three tackles in his last five Premier League starts, with four interceptions.
This was a standout performance, then, in which Keita also created just his third chance of the season.
But there is a bit of a caveat here – it supports an awkward trend with Keita.
Keita’s good performances almost invariably come in games where Liverpool play well as a team.
Take his tackling, for instance. The Guinean has won tackles in three Premier League games – against Palace, in the 3-0 win over Leicester City, and the 2-0 win over 10-man Chelsea.
His only key passes have come against Palace, Leicester City, and a 3-1 home win over Arsenal. The latter is certainly the weakest Liverpool performance we’ve mentioned, mind.
Against Leeds United on opening day, Liverpool scraped a 4-3 win. Keita played an hour but in a sticky game, created nothing and Leeds tackled him three times – the most of his season.
His other start came in the 7-2 defeat against Aston Villa. Keita was so bad in that one that Jurgen Klopp hooked him at half time.
Keita has one Champions League start, too. It was against Midtjylland last week but he did next to nothing in a 1-1 draw.
It creates an awkward situation for Klopp. Liverpool actually have a great record with Keita in the side but they only get genuinely good performances from him when the whole team is on fire.
You can easily see a positive there – Keita can influence the team and move them forward when he’s at his best. But on the other hand, it doesn’t make him very reliable at all.
It’s worth looking back to last season, too. Keita’s best performance of the campaign came in the final home game against Chelsea.
He was fantastic but at the same time, Liverpool had zero pressure on them and looked electric going forward.
It all suggests that Keita only comes out of his shell when the going is good. Which is a shame, as he’s a hell of a player when he’s on it.
But until he can demonstrate an ability to help out when things are tough, he’s always likely to have a question mark over him.
The £53m man is a wonderful talent but we just wish he’d turn that into becoming a bigger player.