By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
Georginio Wijnaldum may have deservedly won the Man of the Match award for his showing against Bournemouth on Saturday, but it was the performance of another Liverpool midfielder that caught the eye of many Reds fans.
Naby Keita has faced criticism from many since his long-awaited arrival in the summer – after a good first impression on his debut against West Ham on the opening day, the Guinean failed to make much of an impression and was in and out of the team for months.
Niggling injuries, being pushed out to the left, apparent struggles to adapt to a new system and a new culture, all of these things had Liverpool fans fearing that their new £52m man – the first to wear the fabled No.8 since club legend Steven Gerrard – wouldn’t live up to the hype or the price tag.
But in recent weeks, even in the midst of the Reds’ so-called ‘blip’, we have started to see more of the player that lit up the Bundesliga during his time with RB Leipzig.
He was very impressive in the draw at West Ham, and absolutely ran the show alongside fellow midfielders Wijnaldum and Fabinho when Bournemouth visited Anfield on Saturday.
Here are some of the incredible statistics [courtesy of WhoScored?] that Keita – who celebrates his 24th birthday today – posted during his 90 minutes on the pitch as Jurgen Klopp’s side put the Cherries to the sword:
– 120 touches, more than any other player on the pitch, showed that the Guinean constantly wanted the ball and got himself involved in everything that the Reds did.
– 97 passes, at a success rate of an impressive 90.7% – only Virgil van Dijk attempted more passes in the game.
– Seven tackles won, more than any other Liverpool player. By comparison Fabinho, whose role it is to break-up play, made four successful tackles in the game.
Keita’s performance was stunning, and the only he seems to be missing from his game of late is and ‘end product’, by way of goals and assists.
He’s still waiting for that elusive first strike in a Liverpool shirt, and has only recorded one assist in the 4-3 win over Crystal Palace in January, but deserved to double that tally on Saturday for his delicious through ball into Firmino which directly led to Salah’s goal.
There have been some close calls on the goals front too – his long-range effort that was saved brilliantly by Joe Hart at Turf Moor in early December springs to mind – but the wait for him to hit the back of the net goes on.
Once he adds more goals and assists to his recent performances, then we could have a special player on our hands, dare I say one deservedly sporting that legendary No.8 shirt.