Summer signing Naby Keita has underwhelmed at Liverpool this season, but Jurgen Klopp simply must change his ways to give the midfielder a fair crack.
Liverpool scraped past Crystal Palace on Saturday, and plenty of players will feel relieved after some really poor individual performances.
James Milner had an absolute nightmare dealing with Wilfried Zaha, Alisson Becker should not be exempt from criticism for the third Palace goal, and worst of all Keita was virtually non-existent.
The Guinean international did pick up an assist with a simple pass to Roberto Firmino, but he was barely involved in the game, making only one key pass and completing zero dribbles – as per stats-based website WhoScored.
If this is going to change, Klopp has to trust the youngster in his natural position.
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After two incredible years at Leipzig, fans often forget that Keita will not turn 24 until next month, so the misfiring midfielder still has plenty of time to be a hit at Anfield.
He will not be a hit though, if Klopp doesn’t trust him enough to deploy him in his actual position.
Keita performed best at Leipzig in a midfield two, typically alongside the more defensive-minded Diego Demme, which allowed him to venture forward and use his skill and vision.
His current manager has often opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation this season instead of his typical 4-3-3 setup, but he usually places the African star on the left wing rather than as part of the holding duo, probably due to a lack of experience.
The manager has shown time and time again that he is patient with new signings, but patience does not mean forcing minutes in an unfavourable position, and the left wing experiment could well be harming the player as much as helping him.
With Fabinho in the form of his life and a struggling Leicester City side set to visit Anfield, now is the perfect time for Klopp to unleash Keita in a midfield duo, which will also leave room for Xherdan Shaqiri to work his creative magic on what will definitely be a tightly-packed Leicester defence.
The Brazilian’s physicality, ability to read the game and progressive passing will open up tons of lanes for Keita to exploit, and the visiting Foxes will likely not be in the mood to put the Reds on the back foot after a disappointing late defeat to Wolves.
So, Liverpool fans, what do you think about Keita so far? Is the onus on Klopp to use him better? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…