Naby Keita: Defining season for Liverpool midfielder whose talent hasn’t yet fully shone through

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By Dave Davis – @DaveD0106

“We’ve had players that have been in their first seasons – Keita and Fabinho. Their first season is over now and they’ve settled in, so I’m sure they will be looking to kick on and so will everyone else.” – Andy Robertson

The Scot was clear on his expectations for Naby Keita and Fabinho this season.

To be fair to the Brazilian enforcer, he became a key component of Liverpool’s success last campaign and many view him as an automatic choice. This season though seems set to be a defining one for a player for whom Liverpool beat off competition from Manchester City and Bayern Munich, amongst others.

For Keita, an overall return last campaign of three goals and one assist from 1817 minutes looks far from impressive and it was evident that the Guinean midfielder was struggling to adapt to his new surroundings.

However, groin and muscular problems played their part and towards the end of the season there were clear signs that the 24-year-old was beginning to find his feet, especially from April onwards.

It’ll be difficult to know the true impact that Guinea’s insistence on playing their top talent in the African Cup of Nations – despite his clear injuries – will have, but if Lyon was a barometer then the former RB Leipzig player is worth getting excited about again.

Reds everywhere will be hoping to see the player who ensured that Edwards and Klopp were more than happy to shell out £52.75 million in advance of his arrival.

It’s worth remembering that Keita finished the 17/18 season with nine goals and seven assists for RBL, predominantly from an attacking midfield role but showing a variance to his game. Jurgen Klopp made it clear that it would take time for the player to adapt. Yet, when a player appears confident enough to take the fabled No.8 shirt at Anfield, then expectations abound.

Keita only returned to training after AFCON along with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and others in Evian. After a season that will live long in the memory, Reds will be looking for justifications for the lack of transfer activity.

Whilst not one of the ‘new signings’ specifically name-checked by the manager, Keita playing the equivalent of just over 20 games last season means more is needed this campaign. It’ll prove to be pivotal as to whether the next step is taken or if potential may go unfulfilled.

Everything appears there for the player. Success will ultimately depend on him.

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