This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Having arrived from RB Leipzig, Naby Keita has struggled to make a significant impression in his time at Liverpool so far. Injuries have played their part in restricting the Guinea international to just eight appearances this season, whilst the trio of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum have been Jurgen Klopp’s preferred composition in midfield.
But with a busy Christmas schedule for the Reds, Keita will no doubt get his fair share of chances to shine, and at Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, he certainly took it. Klopp’s men ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against the Cherries, with their £48m man taking centre stage.
As per Sofascore, his 9.4 match rating was the highest of any player on the pitch, with his teammate Henderson is second at a comparatively measly 8.5. And when looking at the underlying numbers, it is easy to see why Keita dominated proceedings on the south coast. As well as scoring himself, the 24-year-old also provided an inch-perfect assist for Mohamed Salah, and showed Klopp exactly what he can bring to the table by being trusted in one of those three available midfield positions.
The former Leipzig man always looked to get on the front foot, having a total of three shots on goal. But aside from his goal contributions, he ran the show with his passing too. He had 111 touches, and made 89 accurate passes as he and Henderson in particular helped dictate the pace and tempo of the match. And whilst the cynical thing to suggest would be that they may not have been progressive with their use of the ball, Keita had the second-most key passes too (3).
With the fixtures coming thick and fast, having Keita firing on all cylinders and giving Klopp a much-needed extra option to rotate will be welcomed immensely by the Liverpool boss. He was given chance to show what he can do, and boy did he do just that. It now means he can be considered a more than viable option as the club look to compete on multiple fronts, and gives his manager a welcome selection headache.