Despite the departures of Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool’s midfield looks stronger than ever.
Three years after his appointment, Jurgen Klopp has completely rebuilt Liverpool from top to bottom. The Reds are no longer viewed as a stepping stone, and the German finally has a squad capable of competing with the best sides in the world. In previous seasons, he has never had as many options at his disposal, a credit to the excellent business conducted by him and his recruitment team.
Against West Ham, Klopp opted to leave new recruit Fabinho, skipper Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana on the bench. Georginio Wijnaldum started in the holding role alongside James Milner and Naby Keita. Wijnaldum and Milner, in particular, were exceptional but it was the £54m-man that stole the show.
Liverpool had wanted to sign Keita last summer after he impressed in the Bundesliga. However, Leipzig were unwilling to lose their star player ahead of their debut campaign in the Champions League. Amid interest from Barcelona, Liverpool were to wise to tie up a deal in advance and were forced to wait a year to see him don the red shirt.
The Anfield faithful finally got to see their new number eight in action against the Hammers and were left salivating. His quality on the ball was evident from the first minute, and the weight on his passes were perfect. A perfectly timed through ball to Andrew Robertson allowed the Scot to pick out Mohamed Salah to open the scoring. His link up with the former Hull City man could be a partnership to keep a close eye on.
Keita was later moved to the left of a midfield four as Klopp looked to see out the win, highlighting the versatility he offers his boss. He ended the game with 89% pass accuracy, including 18 in the final third of the pitch.
Coutinho’s departure was a real blow to the Reds, but they have a new talisman now. And his name is Naby Keita.
Naby Keita’s Premier League debut by numbers:
89% pass accuracy
18 passes in the final third
8 ball recoveries
1 take-on completed
1 tackle won
1 key pass
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 12, 2018
It took a while to get him but his success, after that of Virgil van Dijk’s (another player that waited for), shows those behind the scenes at Liverpool have the best recruitment policy in the world.
Liverpool fans, thoughts?