Liverpool

Klopp must allow Keïta to mesmerise Chelsea in Istanbul

 • by Sam McGuire
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It’s difficult to drop players after an emphatic 4-1 victory but Jürgen Klopp should make changes to his Liverpool midfield ahead of the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea. 

The midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum all did what was asked of them on Friday night against Norwich City.

The skipper bombed on in the box-to-box role. Fabinho channelled his inner Hulk and proceeded to smash, legally, anyone and everyone in his presence. And Wijnaldum was tasked with creating space for others to exploit.

However, against Chelsea, the Dutchman should make way for Naby Keïta. 

The Liverpool No.8 has been quietly impressive during his cameos in pre-season and Klopp has heaped pressure on the £50million signing.

“He looks completely different this pre-season,” the German coach said. “You could see already he’s much more settled in the team: completely different body language and everything is different. We expect a lot and he expects a lot. Rightly so.”

Only a week into the 2019/20 campaign, there’s ample time for Keïta to have the impact Klopp expects. But his performances in pre-season and the Community Shield, coupled with Chelsea’s frailties, mean the tie in Istanbul is arguably the perfect storm for the diminutive Guinean. 

So why waste that opportunity? 

Chelsea’s 4-0 defeat to Manchester United on Sunday didn’t tell the whole story. The Blues had more possession, landed more shots on target and generally looked the more dangerous of the two sides. 

Frank Lampard and his players can feel hard done by but their lack of maturity and experience in the second half was telling.

Though the new Chelsea boss is likely to shore things up, he isn’t going to sacrifice his beliefs after just one match. It’d simply undo all of the good work put in during pre-season and it’d send a message to the players that he wasn’t confident in his own tactics. 

With this in mind, it’s hard to see the Blues starting in anything other than a 4-2-3-1 system. Straight away it’s clear the midfield is an area for Liverpool to target due to the fact they outnumber the opposition three to two. Even if N’Golo Kanté is cleared to play from the start, it’s a big ask to have him put out fires across the pitch alongside one of Jorginho or Mateo Kovačić. 

Under Lampard, Chelsea are aggressive pressers of the ball. But they aren’t the best at it just yet. It was evident against United, especially when the Red Devils managed to break prior to their second goal. 

As detailed here, Tammy Abraham lost the ball outside the United penalty area with players looking to support him.

Jorginho is caught on his heels and isn’t quick enough to shut down Scott McTominay before he’s able to pick out Rashford. The England international drives forward and this phase of play eventually sees Anthony Martial fire home from close range. 

During the transitional period when attack turns into defence, Chelsea are vulnerable. This is where Liverpool are arguably at their very best. And it’s definitely where Keïta is at his best.

His ability to slalom past opponents before effortlessly carrying the ball 20-30 yards is mesmerising. Up against a naive and immature pressing side, the former RB Leipzig man could have a field day. 

Keïta is also one of the most effective pressers in the team for the Reds. As previously mentioned, Chelsea have a defined style under Lampard and they’re unlikely to abandon that after one defeat. His Derby County side liked to play out from the back and he’s had his Blues side adopt that same approach. 

However, Lampard doesn’t have wealth of centre-backs who are comfortable in this approach. That was highlighted on Sunday. 

United are sloppy with their pressing triggers but even they managed to rush Chelsea, and especially Kurt Zouma, into mistakes. Kepa Arrizabalaga was regularly putting the ball out for a throw-in due to poor attempted passes. 

In the still above you see United commit four men to a press yet Chelsea initially manage to work their way out of it. Zouma has options but he’s loose on the ball and overhits a pass aimed for Jorginho straight into the path of Martial.

If Zouma is that shakey against the United press, what would he be like against Liverpool’s?

The Reds’ press was on point against Manchester City but then, as revealed on the Anfield Index Under Pressure podcast, Jordan Henderson’s off-ball performance against Norwich was lacking, with the left-back managing to breeze past him on multiple occasions. 

Adding Keïta to that trio should improve the off the ball work. If the forward players and midfielders sync up as they did at Wembley then Chelsea are going to struggle to build out from defence and will resort to going long – not a wise decision when ball-magnet Virgil van Dijk is patrolling.

This won’t be a make or break game for the Liverpool No.8 but it is a chance for him to lay down a marker and put in a man-of-the-match performance.

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