By Bobby Gunn – @BobbyGunn8
Nabil Fékir has been Liverpool fans’ most sought-after signing this summer, but have they already found Philippe Coutinho’s replacement in £52m-man Naby Keita.
Although this isn’t a like-for-like replacement for the tricky Brazilian, it could be argued that, since his departure, Jurgen Klopp’s adapted midfield dynamic has brought more fluidity to their game, and has led to more goals being scored as defences struggle to cope.
Liverpool scored more goals per game (2.3 before vs. 2.47 after the departure of
Coutinho), with a 3.9%-higher conversion rate, according to Opta.
Coupled with the signing of Brazilian defensive midfielder Fabinho from Monaco, this allows Captain Jordan Henderson to move up the pitch alongside Keita where the two can be Liverpool’s main central creative forces.
If the skipper can match or better his 2013/14 form, when he amassed four goals and seven assists in the Premier League, then this partnership could be devastating.
There is also the number change for Sadio Mané from 19 to 10 which could see a change in position for the Senegalese forward, especially after he was used in a more inverted left-wing position for him in the latter end of the season.
The change saw him dropping into the No. 10 position on occasions throughout games, allowing Salah and Firmino to be the more focal points up the pitch, meaning new signing Xherdan Shaqiri could be occupying one of the wide roles if Klopp chose to go-down this road.
Although this is an option, I do believe the number change for Mané was more of a marketing decision for his agency-backed brand (SM10) than a position change, reinforcing the generall feeling that Shaqiri was signed for much-needed backup to the ‘fab three’.
I still think Klopp will want to change to his previously preferred formation of 4-2-3-1.
Fabinho will be controlling the midfield, Naby Keita is set to be the main creative force, breaking the passing lines from deep with his immense dribbling ability due to his fantastic low centre of gravity.
Add to this a No.10 providing the devastating front three of Salah, Mané and Firmino, and you’ve got yourself a side that should be mounting a serious challenge.
With the latest news of the contract negotiations and Chelsea coming on the scene, could this force Klopp and Edwards’ hand? After Nabil Fékir’s rumoured transfer request, things could begin to move quickly and we will find out very soon how this long-running saga will play-out.
My personal opinion is that if we can capture Fékir’s signature then that would be brilliant, although I am very happy with the summer business as Klopp has addressed all of our immediate issues, for now.
I would have confidence in the three central midfielders that reached the Champions League Final last season fighting for the one remaining position while Keita acts as our main attacking influence from midfield with his criminally underrated passing and dribbling ability.