EPL

Keita the odd man out at Liverpool but Klopp insists midfielder remains in his plans

By Sports Desk May 01, 2021

Jurgen Klopp has made clear Naby Keita remains part of his long-term plans at Liverpool, despite the midfielder enduring another stop-start season at the club.

Injuries have hampered Keita ever since he joined from RB Leipzig. The Reds showed patience to finally get one of their primary transfer targets, completing a deal in August 2017 that saw the player spend one final season in Germany before heading to Anfield.

There have been flashes of his obvious talent since arriving, but Keita has seemingly been stuck in a frustrating cycle of fleetingly good moments followed by spells out of the team.

This campaign has been no different: Keita has made just nine starts in all competitions, the last of them coming in a 3-1 Champions League defeat at Real Madrid that saw the Guinea international substituted before half-time.

"It was not about Naby, but I did it and now I'm not happy about it because we talk like it's Naby's responsibility. It was not. It was tactical," Klopp said about the change.

The German coach has not started the talented 26-year-old since, a decision he revealed ahead of Sunday's clash with Manchester United was due to the need for stability in selection, particularly with the upheaval in defence.

With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all out, there has been a rotation of different options used at the heart of the back four, including midfield duo Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, who is now sidelined himself.

"A lot of things have been tricky this year. We've had to change so often and then you have to in the moment try and go for stability, that's what we really need," Klopp told reporters while previewing the trip to Old Trafford.

"For example, take Manchester United, where the last line [of defence] has played together for nearly 20 games now. Then you can make changes everywhere because you have a proper base.

"We never had that. On top of that, making two or three changes in midfield just doesn't work out. People say to try it, and I would if I could only be nearly sure that it would work out, but you need stability in a football team.

"Other teams are just too good for you to make eight or nine changes. That has hit a few players this year, some of them have been injured and coming back."

Keita has played 683 minutes in all competitions this season. There have been just seven league starts, and in five of those he was taken off.

A positive coronavirus test in October forced him to isolate, while thigh and knee injuries have kept him away from the first team too.

There been no goal involvements amid such limited opportunities, but he has created 10 chances at an average of 1.32 per 90 minutes, a rate just below regular Roberto Firmino (1.38) and better than both Diogo Jota (1.06) and Curtis Jones (0.88), two potential rivals for spots in the first XI.

Circumstances outside his control have worked against him, but Klopp has no intention of seeing the Liverpool cut their losses with Keita, who was a club-record signing at the time his move was confirmed.

"Naby trains really well, I have to say. Really well. Like a lot of other players, he looks really good in training," the Liverpool boss said.

"But this year we need stability. We will make changes from time to time, definitely, but it's not like we can take out seven, eight or nine players to change and say maybe we can win like this.

"The long-term future of Naby Keita, from my point of view, is here."

Related items

  • Arteta hails outgoing David Luiz and pledges to work with Willian Arteta hails outgoing David Luiz and pledges to work with Willian

    Mikel Arteta paid a glowing tribute to David Luiz after the Brazil defender's departure from Arsenal at the end of this season was confirmed.

    The 34-year-old moved across London to join the Gunners from Chelsea in August 2019.

    He has played 73 times in all competitions, scoring on four occasions and contributing to 18 clean sheets.

    Arsenal have won 32 of the 69 games he has started during that time – a win percentage of 46.4 per cent – but Arteta and David Luiz mutually agreed to a parting of the ways when his contract expires at the end of his season.

    "David and I, we discussed it on a few occasions and the other day we made the final decision on that," he said ahead of Wednesday's trip to Crystal Palace, which will be Roy Hodgson's final home game in charge of the Eagles.

    "He's won everything in football and he has earned every right to do so because of who he is as a player and a person. I had the privilege of working with him for 18 months.

    "I really enjoyed working with him, we had some great moments together and he's been really helpful. He's someone we really like and appreciate so much.

    "Just to say thank you to him and wish him the best of luck in his next chapter. Knowing David, he will have many more to come – as a player and also in the future, somehow related to the game."

    David Luiz's countryman and fellow former Chelsea player Willian has endured a difficult maiden season at Arsenal.

    The 32-year-old belatedly scored his first Premier League goal for the Gunners in the 3-1 win over West Brom earlier this month, while five assists in the top flight is below the return from each of his last three seasons at Stamford Bridge.

    Inter Miami have been linked to a move for Willian, but Arteta expects him to remain at Arsenal and will work to improve his output.

    "He's a player with an incredible talent and a proven performance level in this league," he said.

    "This season has been difficult and I take full responsibility because I have to be getting the best out of him.

    "We had moments, but not to the level like he did before.

    "These are the assessments that we are going to do individually with the players and as well, obviously, with [director of football] Edu, the board and the ownership to make the right decisions for the future.

    "Every player that is under contract is very likely to be here with us next season."

  • Hodgson to step down as Crystal Palace manager amid Lampard speculation Hodgson to step down as Crystal Palace manager amid Lampard speculation

    Crystal Palace have confirmed Roy Hodgson will step down as manager at the end of the season, amid rumours Frank Lampard is in talks to replace him.

    The 73-year-old is nearing the end of his fourth season with Palace and has kept them clear of the relegation places in each of those campaigns.

    Hodgson will step away from Premier League management after his last two matches against Arsenal and Liverpool.

    With Hodgson's contract due to expire, former Chelsea boss Lampard has long been linked with taking over as his replacement having been sacked by the Blues in January.

    "After more than 45 years of coaching I have decided that the time is right for me to step away from the rigours of top-flight Premier League football, so our final two matches will be my last ones as manager of Crystal Palace," Hodgson confirmed in a statement to the Palace website.

    "It's been a particularly rewarding period of my football life and career to have been able to spend these last four seasons with Palace. 

    "I feel now that at the end of another successful season, in which we have secured our Premier League status, the moment is right for me to step down from my responsibilities of being a full-time manager.

    "I have had so much support from my wife and family throughout my career and I have been contemplating this decision for some time, and now I believe the time is right to consider them and to see what the future holds for me.  

    "I have really enjoyed my time at Palace, I have been privileged to work with an outstanding group of professional and dedicated players, most of whom have been with me throughout the four years."

    Palace have finished 11th, 12th and 14th under Hodgson. This season they sit 13th after a dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa last time out.

    Chairman Steve Parish said: "It has been an absolute privilege and pleasure to work alongside Roy, who is both a magnificent human and an outstanding football manager. 

    "I know how much it has meant to Roy managing the club he supported as a child, adding to his distinguished and unparalleled career in football management. 

    "His record with us simply cannot be overstated, he is the only Palace manager to secure four years in the Premier League and he has helped give us stability in the most turbulent of times."

    Assistant manager Ray Lewington will also leave with Hodgson.

    Palace have a host of players out of contract at the end of the season too, so there will be significant changes throughout the club in 2021-22.

    They face Arsenal on Wednesday and Gunners boss Mikel Arteta paid tribute to the veteran Hodgson.

    Arteta said: "He's an absolute legend. What he's done in football, for English football, what he transmits as a person and the work he has done at different clubs is remarkable. 

    "To keep doing it for so long with the way he has always conducted himself, it's a great example as a young coach of someone I admire.

    "We can count them [managers like Hodgson] with one hand. What he has done, in this league in particular, is incredible."

  • FIFA 21 includes Kiyan Prince as former QPR youngster's legacy lives on FIFA 21 includes Kiyan Prince as former QPR youngster's legacy lives on

    Kiyan Prince, the promising young footballer who was fatally stabbed outside his London school in 2006, has been included in the FIFA 21 game in a gesture that shows the player he could have become.

    Game creators EA Sports said they hoped his selection in the QPR squad would help to bring more attention to the Kiyan Prince Foundation, which was founded by the boy's father and former professional boxer Mark Prince with the objective of addressing and attempting to prevent knife and gun crime.

    The announcement came 15 years to the day since Kiyan was murdered.

    Kiyan, who played for the QPR academy and was tipped as a future professional, is portrayed in the popular game as a 30-year-old thanks to the use of AI technology. He would have turned 30 in November 2020 and wears the number 30 shirt in the game.

    "It's absolutely amazing. This is an incredible journey," said Mark Prince. "It's difficult for people to understand - how do you get purpose from so much pain?

    "That's why this story has to go global. Everybody has to hear about this story. It has to impact their lives. Whether you're old or young, it will inspire you and it could direct the path of your life based on how you process the story."

    The hope is that youngsters playing the game are touched by the story of Kiyan and motivated not to become involved in violent crime.

    A video billing his inclusion in the game features a voiceover, that says: "My name is Kiyan Prince and I am a professional footballer, or at least I would have been had I not been killed when I was 15." 

    Mark Prince told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It's been an incredible journey. It's bigger than me and it's bigger than my son. I feel like we're being used to be able to impact and make change because change has to happen.

    "Someone has to have a solution and a system that helps to break this cycle. It's about the mind, it's about what's happening mentally. It can't just be about knives and [the attitude of] 'Let's put them in prison, harder sentences'."

    Kiyan Prince lost his life after being attacked with a pen knife outside his school in Edgware, north-west London. He was stabbed in the heart while trying to break up a fight, and his teenage attacker was jailed for murder.

    Former England striker Les Ferdinand is director of football at QPR, whose Loftus Road home was renamed the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium two years ago.

    Ferdinand said: "He was a fine young man, a fine footballer, and unfortunately he was taken away too soon.

    "If we can save any lives and get people to make different decisions about what they do when they leave their home, instead of picking up a knife doing something very different, it will have been worth it."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.