Liverpool’s Naby Keita fails to convince on first start after injury

This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…

Had it not been for Naby Keita’s injury towards the back end of the season he may well have ended the term as one of Liverpool’s most impressive players.

This was an individual who arrived for a considerable fee of £48m last summer, but up until April, had failed to really show why they invested.

Keita scored all three of his Liverpool goals during that month, but an injury then kept him out for May and subsequently the Champions League final too.

Just as he was starting to find his feet, he took another setback.

It was a telling end to the term for the 5 ft 8 man who missed 11 matches during 2018/19 because of various injury niggles.

In a Liverpool midfield where arguably there is still room for improvement, this was far from ideal.

Yet, in his first start back after injury, his performance at the Africa Cup of Nations for Guinea was a particular cause of concern.

The 24-year-old played 28 minutes as a substitute during their opening game, but this time he was entrusted to start by his manager, playing in a role directly behind the forward line.

It was an extremely physical game as he was subject to a number of rather harsh pieces of play.

The fact he was only fouled once didn’t tell the whole story as he was effectively bullied by Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi in the middle of the park.

The Nigerian kept him at bay as Keita was dispossessed as many as three times throughout the 71 minutes he was on the field.

In that time he had a further three unsuccessful touches and managed just one key pass in a forward area. His influence at both ends of the pitch, therefore, was extremely limited.

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He was eventually withdrawn with just under 20 minutes to play after clearly struggling for fitness and it’s for that reason that Jurgen Klopp will struggle to rely on him next season.

Keita was particularly injury prone last term and despite showing glimpses of his potential, Liverpool will need far greater consistency if they’re to beat Manchester City to the title.

His first start at the Africa Cup of Nations demonstrated just how lightweight he can be and with fitness again proving to be an issue, it’ll be interesting to see how the Reds manage him next term.

Article title: Liverpool’s Naby Keita fails to convince on first start after injury

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