Naby Keita was the shock addition against Real Madrid. The failure there cannot solely go on the Guinean, however.
Jurgen Klopp got it horribly wrong when he picked Naby Keita against Real Madrid. Though, we do get the thinking.
Real have an ageing midfield and so Liverpool put out an energetic central trio. Keita and Gini Wijnaldum could run them off the pitch.
It didn’t go that way, of course. Keita struggled badly, to the point where Klopp subbed him off at half-time.
The £53m man struggled to counter-attack and lacked bravery with the ball. But he also didn’t have his pressing game together, nor did he effectively cover Trent Alexander-Arnold’s runs.
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Klopp took him off on 41 minutes and it’s quite telling that he didn’t wait until half-time. He wanted him out of there.
But while Keita did not deliver, Liverpool can’t put this defeat down to that decision. It was the wrong choice in hindsight, certainly, but the Reds’ performance wasn’t poor because of that decision.
There are other factors that Liverpool must fix and get right next time. Most notable the front-three.
They just didn’t mesh in Madrid. Diogo Jota wasn’t able to consistently link the midfield and attack as Roberto Firmino does.
Then there’s the question of Sadio Mane. He gave the ball away with a poor touch eight times in the game – he’s in terrible form.
Highlighting the Keita decision is going to happen as it was a bad one that robbed Liverpool of midfield control. But focusing on it too much takes away from other problems.
Keita wasn’t even the only bad midfielder, in fact. Neither Gini Wijnaldum or Fabinho played well – that’s arguably more concerning, given they’re supposed to be the reliable ones.
The decision to play Keita certainly didn’t help. But Liverpool can’t expect to beat Real just by replacing him.
It’ll take a bigger overhaul to get back into this one.