Going into his third year as a Liverpool player, Naby Keita is still to establish himself as a roaring success. Yet.
The Guinean talisman has started just six of Liverpool’s 16 Premier League matches this season, largely down to injury. At this point, we probably shouldn’t expect him to feature against Southampton on Monday.
Despite an injury-ridden Liverpool tenure, as of far, there is plenty of optimism and excitement that still surrounds Keita. He has clocked up 71 appearances since signing in 2018 – winning four major honours.
This number is skewed following an inability to remain fit, but every year we hope something will change.
A rare Klopp enigma
With Liverpool still in contention for both the Premier League and Champions League, there will be plenty of opportunities for Keita. While it is also worth remembering we’re not even half way through the league campaign.
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Liverpool paid £53 million [Times] to sign Keita from RB Leipzig in 2018, and he is on a contract until 2023. This is a player who Liverpool made a substantial investment in.
With a self-sustaining transfer model as successful as Liverpool’s, Keita remains one of the great enigmas of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure. He is the club’s third biggest signing in their history, after all.
Luckily for Keita, is qualities are still unmatched amongst the rest of the squad. He offers something unique in Klopp’s armoury and his biggest criticism is we don’t see enough of it.
At the start of the season, Keita started four successive PL matches – following up his best run in the team. Since the 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa in September, he has managed a further two starts. He is injured at present.
So, it seems consecutive matches are good for Keita. He is clearly a player who thrives off momentum, the problem is he never gets enough of it.
Transfermarkt has him down as having eight injuries before this season. So, that number has at least surpassed double figures that we know of.
As a result, Keita is quite far down in the pecking order, at present. Below the likes of Curtis Jones, it seems. He needs opportunities to correct that.
It’s hard to see Keita ever secure himself a consistent role if he continues such a barren run of injuries. Players such as Jones and Gini Wijnaldum have remained injury-free all season – their durability makes them more valuable to Klopp than Keita, right now.
Patience is limited regarding Keita
Indeed, each time Keita is announced as injured there is a feeling of gut-wrenching anguish, as a result.
That’s largely because his setbacks occur during moments where he is playing well.
Against Leicester City in November, Keita was excellent. During the 3-0 win, he managed two shots, one key pass and averaged a commendable 87 per cent pass success rate. A performance of such, however, inevitably was followed with an injury blow.
It all suggests Keita thrives when times are good. Which is a shame because he is a formidable player when he’s enjoying a run.
However, his inability to help the team when times are tough has left a glaring question mark in regards to his influence on the team.
Let’s hope this is the year when Keita puts behind such an unfavourable trend, the one where he finally becomes an indispensable asset to both Klopp and Liverpool.