Naby Keita took a while to settle at Liverpool, but his recent performances suggest he is now well accustomed to life at Anfield.
Plenty of expectation surrounded Keita’s arrival this summer after Liverpool waited a year before the midfielder moved from RB Leipzig in a £53million deal.
The 24-year-old made a slow start to his Reds career but has scored in his last two appearances – and we’ve compared his stats in his most recent outing against Porto to his first Liverpool start, against West Ham in August.
While Keita started both games in a midfield three, against West Ham he was alongside Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner, whereas against Porto he was joined by Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park.
The most obvious difference between the two performance is that he bagged himself a goal against Porto, albeit via a deflection, with Klopp saying: “I loved (Keita’s) goal. It was deflected, but it was a situation we wanted, the half-space we wanted to use.”
Despite Liverpool having the same share of possession in both games, 64%, Keita managed to involve himself more in the offensive phase against Porto.
The Guinea international created more chances (two to one), had more shots (two to one), completed more dribbles (three to two) and enjoyed more touches (88 to 81).
They may be only small increases, but it is telling there are increases across the board, suggesting the player is now more confident of his role in the side.
Ladies and gentleman, Naby Keïta has arrived. 💥 pic.twitter.com/JvoU1f1tQN
— LFCSnapped (@LFCSnapped) April 9, 2019
There is a fine balance to be struck between when to attack and when to defend in Klopp’s midfield, and it is in Keita’s work off the ball that he has perhaps most improved.
He completed eight tackles against Porto, twice the number of his next best team-mate, Roberto Firmino, compared to just one against West Ham.
Two interceptions also saw Keita beat the number (one) he managed against West Ham.
And Klopp is clearly impressed by the improvement in the player.
“Naby was a few times a bit unlucky in situations, and had to find his way back into games if you want,” the Liverpool boss said after the victory over Porto. “But he was in it from the start.
“We hoped it would be like this because last game he got better and better, minute by minute, so we wanted to build on it. He was really good.”