Naby Keita simply has to step up for Liverpool after a disappointing week on the injury front. The Reds are left short in midfield.
Jurgen Klopp didn’t hide his anger at England on Friday. The Liverpool boss isn’t at all impressed that Curtis Jones returned from international duty with an injury, ruling him out against Watford today.
The reason this one hits hard is that Jones isn’t the only missing midfielder. Thiago also won’t play through injury, while Harvey Elliott is out for some time. That leaves Liverpool very short.
These three, after all, are the Reds’ progressive midfielders. They’re the ones Klopp turns to with the ball, hoping they can break the opposition lines and make things happen.
Without them, Liverpool lack a tricky midfielder who can help break teams down. Unless Naby Keita can step up, that is.
Can Naby Keita step up?
Keita is supposed to be great at just this. He can dribble with the best of them, and has shown an ability to break teams down – it’s just very rare.
Far rarer than it was at RB Leipzig, anyway. Liverpool haven’t seen that player very often since his £53m move.
When you take Jones’s all-action performance against Porto, for instance, you see the kind of display Keita is supposed to deliver. One where he’s solid defensively but capable of pushing the ball forward and making things happen.
But with Jones out – and Thiago & Elliott missing, too – Keita simply has to take this chance to show what he can do. Otherwise, there will be serious questions over his long-term value.
If he can’t do it now, will he ever? Liverpool need someone to fill the void in midfield and that player should be Keita. If he can’t, it’ll show that a 20-year-old and an 18-year-old do it better than the Guinean.
And that’s a very difficult position for a 26-year-old to be in.