With the dip in form of players like Jordan Henderson and Emre Can, Liverpool fans can’t wait until Naby Keita finally arrives at Anfield next summer; the 22-year-old Guinean midfielder is one of the most highly acclaimed midfielders in world football.
I would like to argue that – I personally feel Emre is a strong player but finds it difficult to play on the counter and would do well with a player like Keïta next to him which will compliment him very much and allow him to pass the ball off to a more creative, quick-on-the-counter player. This allows Emre to focus on sitting deep, breaking up play, controlling the tempo, and handing the ball off to more creative players.
With Keïta’s level of talent, the box to box midfielder for a price tag of £43m is very cheap in this market although his price tag is sure to rise to £67m with add-ons, still worth every penny in my opinion.
Keïta is a deep-lying midfielder who’s most known for is his ability to start attacks from deep at a quick pace – he also possesses high work rate. He has excellent dribbling technique and great vision to spot a tight angled through-pass. What most don’t realize is, he contributes a lot defensively.
Keïta vs Kanté
At 26 years of age, N’Golo Kanté is arguably the best defensive midfield player in the Premier League contributing 3.3 tackles, 2.1 interceptions, 0.7 clearances, and 0.2 blocks in all competitions so far this season.
Naby Keïta at 22, contributes 3 tackles, 2.4 interceptions, 0.6 clearances, and 0.1 blocks in all competitions so far this season. Considering Keïta is 4 years younger than the ‘best defensive midfielder in the EPL’, it’s quite outstanding that he’s contributing on the same level defensively.
Where Keïta excels over Kanté is his ability to score, assist, and create countless goalscoring opportunities for himself as well as his teammates, while easily dribbling through opponents.
In all competitions, this season Keïta has scored 6 goals and notched 1 assist. He also averages per game, 1.8 shots, 1.4 key passes, 3.9 dribbles, fouled twice and gets dispossessed 2.4 times – the dispossessed stat illustrates his willingness to get forward and take risks.
Watch this MOTM performance vs Besiktas in the Champions League this season, he really is something special.
(Kinry Double – YouTube)
Kanté so far this season has only contributed 1 goal, no assists, 0.6 shots on goal, 1.2 key passes, 1.2 dribbles, dispossessed 1.1 times and is only fouled 0.3 times per 90 minutes – a significantly less contribution going forward.
Where Will He Fit?
There are many possibilities as to where and how Keïta can play in Klopp’s team. It is more likely he will play in the 8-role in a midfield 3 as Klopp’s most used formation is a 4-3-3, but with Klopp’s new inclusion of the 4-2-2-2/4-4-2/4-2-4 system we can see him play in a midfield 2; the position where he excels for Leipzig.
We have to wonder, who will Keïta play alongside on a regular basis? Does Klopp rate Henderson to play him week in week out next season? Will Emre leave the club on a free and sign for Juventus this summer? Will Coutinho finally get his move to Barcelona? Who replaces these players? There are a lot of questions to be answered about our midfield but Keïta answers all of the glaring issues we now face; little creativity centrally and little defensive contribution in midfield.
Pair him with someone like Leon Goretzka (at the moment is available on a free next summer and Klopp is a massive fan) or Emre Can (if he stays) then our midfield could be a real force next season – here’s to hoping.