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Naby Keita vs Southampton (a) - The Red Debate
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In this clip we’ve looked solely at Keita’s off the ball movement in attempts to understand his role in the side a bit further

Operating in a midfield 3 here, it’s significant how many times Keita advances beyond the play rather than moving square to receive the ball.

Look at his average position (via WhoScored). Klopp almost certainly asked him to get beyond the play whenever he could:

Keita (8) – average position


When Klopp first came in he spoke a lot about runners into the box. It’s clear that the role he asks of his most advanced midfielder involves a lot of pattern play/movement.

A lot of what is asked of this midfielder takes place at high speed. Prior to his transfer, Rafa Honigstein said that one of Keita’s main qualities is his ability to change the tempo of a game from slow to fast.

The moment when he breaks into the box from a one-two with Mane is a cracking example of this. In a split second he’s beyond two defensive banks & into a space that didn’t seem there.

Klopp’s recruitment & then use of Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain emphasises the difficulty of the role he asks of them.

I must admit, at times so far, Keita has looked a little lost, or as though he doesn’t know what’s being asked of him. It’s perhaps no surprise. After all, it’s more ‘natural’ to offer up for the ball square to the play, particularly when coming from RB Leipzig’s 4222 system as one of the deeper midfielders at times.

The thing we come back to about watching a player and judging them by their contributions on the ball alone is that we can only really predict what has been asked of them. It seems likely from this video that Klopp wanted Keita to break beyond the play as often as he could & get into areas where he could hurt them.

A lot of what Keita attempts is relatively high risk, in that there’s a high margin for error. He tries to move into gaps that don’t seem there/tries to thread balls through spaces that seem too narrow. This can seem frustrating when he’s losing it, but it’s potentially low risk, high reward football when playing against teams camped in their own half as Southampton were for large parts last night. The risk of losing the ball and facing a turnover is lower in these situations.

We’ve said repeatedly that the 3 midfield roles in Klopp’s teams are the most taxing tactically. If Keita can master what Klopp asks of him, believing in himself, then there’s a lethal player in there.

His goal will hopefully do his confidence a world of good. It was pleasing to hear that the players were overjoyed for him in the changing room afterwards. Hopefully it’s the start of more to come.