Jürgen Klopp already has a midfielder to ‘bring in’ as elite Liverpool win percentage tempting
Liverpool has struggled to develop a winning habit this season, but Jürgen Klopp already has the right candidate to come in and fix that.
When it was suggested to Jürgen Klopp that he was ‘too loyal,’ the Liverpool manager quickly dismissed the charge. He admitted that he was aware of the claim, but insisted that it was without merit.
The German was delighted to confess that he is loyal, according to This is Anfield, and declared that everyone should be — but not to an extreme.
Even so, it’s not exactly a mystery why Klopp is having to field these questions. The core of the Liverpool team has remained very similar for a long stretch of time, with the likes of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson relied upon week-in, week-out over a period of many years. Despite this clearly catching up with them, there has been no real move to instigate a changing of the guard.
However, Klopp may have a ready-made solution in-house. Naby Keta has been out injured for much of the season, but even when he has been fit, the management appears to have decided to stick with his stalwarts.
Keita made his first start for Liverpool in the FA Cup third round replay against Wolves yesterday night. There was still plenty wrong with the performance, and it’s easy to draw premature judgments, but a win and a clean sheet contrasted sharply with the more senior team, which shipped two (which perhaps could have been three) in the first match.
The Guinean was undoubtedly a major part of the increased solidity, with the entire midfield unit looking far more functional. Credit for that must also go to young Stefan Bajčetić, while Thiago reminded everyone that it is not he who has been causing the problems in the centre of the park. But Keïta was perhaps the pick of the bunch.
It’s the latest in a streak of strong performances. He came on against Wolves and had an immediate impact, pinning Julen Lopetegui’s side in and contributing to successive waves of Liverpool pressure. However, this brief appearance has been the narrative of Keta’s season since eventually recovering from an injury that held him out until the World Cup — he has not had the opportunity to completely impose his influence.
His bench appearances have affected his win %, with Klopp bringing him on in crushing defeats to Brentford and Brighton, where he was unable to turn the tide. However, previous to that, Keta was one of the most successful players in Premier League history on this metric, winning 77.6 per cent of his matches for the club.
Even now, it still stands at a highly respectable 76.25 per cent, courtesy of 61 wins from 80 matches. That’s without factoring in results like the Wolves triumph, instead focusing entirely on the league. For context, the influential Thiago has won 63.93 per cent of his Premier League games since moving to Liverpool, emphasizing just how much of a winning habit Keïta has developed.
Of course, the obvious question is why Keta is still on 80 appearances in his fifth season with Liverpool. Thiago does not have a clean injury record, but despite signing two years later, he has already played 61 league games for the team. Fabinho, who joined at the same time as the Guinean, has accumulated 132 points.
Keita’s poor injury record is precisely why he is in the final six months of his Liverpool contract. Above all, this is why his tenure at Anfield has not gone well. But there should be no doubt about his capacity to create an impact on the field: his victory percentage is not a fluke.
His performance last night served as a reminder, and Klopp could be tempted to press for a contract extension given his weak choices in midfield. He should avoid doing so because it will harm his reputation for being overly loyal, but his solution for the rest of the campaign is simple. He does have someone he can invite into the team: Keita is the one who gives him permission to eliminate someone else.
This answer could be taken away at any time due to injury, which is why finding a more durable replacement in the summer will be critical, but for the time being Klopp has nothing to lose. Liverpool looks better with Keta than without him, and they win in the end. The necessary midfield switch is right before the manager’s eyes.