Good things come to those who wait, and Liverpool fans waited almost a whole year for Naby Keïta to arrive at Anfield. It is little wonder then, after all that time, Reds fans were hoping for something spectacular.
The Guinean midfielder’s reputation had grown while he was at RB Leipzig; he was a modern midfielder built for highlight packages. Search and destroy tackles, quick and mazy dribbles down the length of the pitch, goals and assists. Keïta could do it all.
Injuries interrupted his opening weeks in the Premier League and then there was the inevitable period of adaptation. Of concern, though, was that by early December Keïta wasn’t even averaging a single take-on per game.
Immediately after that article was published, he had a game where he completed three take-ons against Bournemouth. Was he back? No. He completed just four in his next six appearances, although two of these were brief substitute appearances.
Flying high as a Keïta
More recently, though, the wave of public opinion has turned.
“It takes time to feel right at home but in the last couple of games you can see the quality he gives the team and how good he is,” Jordan Henderson said before Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Bayern Munich. It summed up how many Liverpool fans seem to feel.
And this is why take-ons were used at the top of this article: in Keïta’s last four outings in all competitions, he’s averaged three successful take-ons per appearance or 3.35 per 90 minutes. That’s back at the level he was at in Germany.
In amongst that is the incredible seven tackles he made against Bournemouth, which adds up to a run of form that is unavoidably eye-catching.
Has Keïta changed and is now more comfortable to play a different type of game, or have Liverpool changed in some way that enables him to be his best?
It’s a difficult one to tell. Maybe it’s just taken him half a season to adapt to the new club and new role, and get over the little injuries he picked up along the way.
Maybe he’s always been doing good work, but only recently has he returned to the same eye-catching nature as at Leipzig.
Either way, Liverpool fans are happy with Keïta. And that’s something they’ve been waiting for for a long time.