Naby Keita’s form for Liverpool is a concern for Stephen Warnock, who suggests the midfielder could benefit from a positional change in the Reds’ side.
Keita has struggled to replicate the form that persuaded Liverpool to shell out £52.75m to sign him from RB Leipzig in summer 2018, with his time at Anfield disrupted by a series of injuries and with the player himself admitting his struggles to adapt in a new country.
Ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Genk in Belgium, Jurgen Klopp teased that the midfielder is close to returning to his best, saying: “When will we see Keita at his best? Soon. Naby is one and a half or two weeks in full training around about.
“He looks good and that is why he played [against Man Utd].”
However, after witnessing his performance during Wednesday’s 4-1 win, Warnock told BBC Radio 5 Live that he’s struggling to see what he offers to the side.
“I understand why Liverpool supporters want to see more creativity in their midfield because they have struggled to break some sides down recently, but they should be careful what they wish for,” Warnock said.
“The way Jurgen Klopp’s teams operate, he needs industry in that area too.
“By that, I mean players like Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson or James Milner, who are skilful enough tactically to press when the front three do, and drop back to help their defence as well.
“That was not happening enough at the start of Wednesday’s game.
“[Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita were getting ahead of the ball when Liverpool did not have proper possession, which meant they were both out of the game when Genk counter-attacked.
“Overall, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance was still a big positive as he continues his comeback from the serious injury that saw him miss most of last season – he got more than 70 minutes in his legs and showed off all of his attacking qualities.
“What he does differently from the rest of Liverpool’s midfielders is shoot from the edge of the box, as he showed brilliantly with both his goals in Belgium. His second of the night was an outrageous finish.
“As well as always looking to shoot, he drives past people and looks to commit opposition players – all of which is good news for Liverpool when they go forward.
“But they still need to get the right players around him, because they need to make sure they stay solid enough too.
“Fabinho has made himself first choice to sit in the middle of the three as the holding midfielder, whoever else is in there, but in the first half against Genk he did not have enough help defensively.
“When their players ran past Keita, they stayed away from him because he was so lethargic. There were times when he was almost ambling back, and he did not seem to spot danger either.”
When asked if Keita was being used in his best position, Warnock observed: “I would actually play him further up the pitch on the left in the future, because he leaves gaps and does not track back very well.”