Naby Keïta – A comeback season

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Naby Keïta was subjected to severe criticisms following his performance against Atlético Madrid when some section of the Liverpool fans & social media found him the scapegoat. Scathing words were not minced for the defensive gaps but not enough mention for the worldly goal he scored. 

Fortunately, Jürgen Klopp knew about the real issues defensively in that game. The data science at his disposal and his managerial prowess were enough to identify the gaps the midfield trio created between the high defensive lines exposing enough space for Antoine Griezmann and João Félix to explore. Very few in world football will win one on one against the likes of the Atlético forwards, and Keïta was no exception to that. A section of the media’s vilification of the Guinean was unwarranted and poorly timed given his performances so far this season. 

 

Many questions were raised when he made the starting eleven against Manchester United at Old Trafford but what a master selection he turned out to be. Naby Keïta exhibited precisely the skills and talent for what he was known at Leipzig. Measured passes, key pressing, and composure in front of the goal to beat an in-form David De Gea were attributes enough to mark this as the best 45 minutes that we had seen in the last three years in a Liverpool shirt. Not often has Naby Keïta’s contribution been acknowledged by the media given his injuries and absence but we cannot overlook his impressive performances this season, where a resurgent technician had contributed with three world-class goals, one assist from nine matches.

 

A big sigh of relief went viral on social media when it was reported that his injury was down to Paul Pogba’s reckless challenge and thankfully it is not a serious one, getting away with just bruising and nothing worse. But given Naby Keïta’s lengthy injury history, where he missed 54 games in three years, another long spell of absence was surely in most fans’ minds. If he’s now not going to be sidelined for too long it is a massive boost for the Liverpool fans when you consider that James Milner is still absent due to a hamstring injury and Thiago Alcantara is also slowly making his way back from a long injury.

 

Once described as the ‘complete midfielder’ by Jürgen Klopp and for whom Liverpool triggered a £48m release clause one season ahead, it is clear that that Klopp will not give up on him so easily. In the recent past, just when it appeared that Keïta has landed, unfortunate injuries had pulled his growth trajectory at Anfield. After a poor 20/21 season, one hopes that Naby Keïta will continue his current rich form for the rest of the season and prove his doubters wrong.

 

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