How has Naby Keita fared in his opening 10 Liverpool matches?

Liverpool had to wait to get their man.

A transfer for Naby Keita from RB Leipzig was brokered in the summer of 2017, but the paperwork stipulated the Reds had to wait a full year to get him on the books.

The £55-million capture eventually began his Liverpool career in modest fashion – a 7-0 friendly win at non-league Chester FC – but enjoyed a full preseason while many of his teammates were at the World Cup. It gave him the opportunity to acclimate to his new surroundings and manager Jurgen Klopp’s famed gegenpressing style.

Here’s a game-by-game analysis and conclusion of Keita’s efforts, starting with his debut against West Ham United on Aug. 12:

Aug. 12: 4-0 win vs. West Ham United (home)

OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty

Keita’s competitive debut was lauded as “dynamic and delightful” by the Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle, but most other outlets were cautiously optimistic about the Guinean’s display. The poor quality of West Ham should be considered – Mark Noble was huffing and puffing in midfield, so Keita and his new colleagues were given acres of space to charge into – but it was an energetic and entertaining showing from Keita to begin his Liverpool career.

MINUTES PLAYED 94
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 1
Take-ons completed 2
Interceptions 1
Tackles 1

Rating: 8/10

Aug. 20: 2-0 win vs. Crystal Palace (away)

Mike Hewitt / Getty Images Sport / Getty

A potential hiccup early in Liverpool’s season was dealt with professionally, and Keita, with center-back Virgil van Dijk, stood out at Selhurst Park. His runs and decisive use of the ball knitted the Reds’ lines together, and he was instrumental in breaking up attacks from Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace. The sole blemish of Keita’s evening was his squandering of possession that led to Andros Townsend cracking the crossbar.

MINUTES PLAYED 86
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 1
Take-ons completed 1
Interceptions 1
Tackles 5

Rating: 8/10

Aug. 25: 1-0 win vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (home)

Jan Kruger / Getty Images Sport / Getty

A surprisingly tough assignment for Liverpool saw Keita withdrawn for club captain Jordan Henderson midway through the second half. There was the odd intervention from Keita that showed his pace and some willingness to muck in, but he was otherwise tidy yet unspectacular.

MINUTES PLAYED 67
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 1
Take-ons completed 0
Interceptions 0
Tackles 3

Rating: 6/10

Sept. 1: 2-1 win vs. Leicester City (away)

Lynne Cameron / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Keita made himself busy when brought on in place of Henderson. The industry and hustle he brought to the middle of the park was key in seeing out another three points for Liverpool, but it’s difficult and a little unfair to rate him on such a brief cameo.

MINUTES PLAYED 25
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 0
Take-ons completed 0
Interceptions 0
Tackles 0

Rating: N/A

Sept. 15: 2-1 win vs. Tottenham Hotspur (away)

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Keita was outshone by James Milner and goalscorer Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield during a 2-1 win that flattered Tottenham. Liverpool were in control for the vast majority of the match. Keita wasn’t at his most effective and should have done better with a chance that was thwarted by Michel Vorm, but his indefatigable nature ensured the opposition could never operate in cruise control.

MINUTES PLAYED 83
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 0
Take-ons completed 0
Interceptions 1
Tackles 1

Rating: 6/10

Sept. 22: 3-0 win vs. Southampton (home)

Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images Sport / Getty

“Came on, did stuff, went off” was how The Mirror’s Mark Jones summed up Keita’s role in a win that was never really in doubt. By the time the 23-year-old was brought on, there was a pedestrian pace to the match. It meant Keita’s efforts were noticeable but sadly ineffectual while those around him ambled their way to the final whistle.

MINUTES PLAYED 23
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 0
Take-ons completed 0
Interceptions 0
Tackles 0

Rating: N/A

Sept. 26: 2-1 loss vs. Chelsea (home)

Jan Kruger / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Keita was at his Kloppensian best when he bullied the ball off Cesc Fabregas and blasted a shot at Willy Caballero in the lead-up to Daniel Sturridge’s opener. His dynamism and aggression in the League Cup third-round fixture pleased his manager. He had to work hard to breach the Blues, but he was incessant. One shot forced Caballero into a flying save, meaning Keita’s hunt for a goal continued after seven appearances.

MINUTES PLAYED 97
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 2
Take-ons completed 2
Interceptions 0
Tackles 3

Rating: 7/10

Sept. 29: 1-1 draw vs. Chelsea (away)

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Unlike some of Keita’s other cameos, examining the numbers of the midfielder’s impact at Chelsea doesn’t seem cruel. His interchanges with colleagues were slick and rapid, disorientating those in blue shirts and adding an extra dimension to Klopp’s attacking arsenal. His fine positional sense and eagerness to track back also ensured the more conservative efforts of the player he replaced, Henderson, went unmissed.

MINUTES PLAYED 17
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 0
Take-ons completed 2
Interceptions 0
Tackles 1

Rating: 6/10

Oct. 3: 1-0 loss vs. Napoli (away)

Francesco Pecoraro / Getty Images Sport / Getty

There was great concern for Liverpool when Keita had to be stretchered off early into his first Champions League appearance for the club with a back issue. Keita wasn’t at his best before his premature withdrawal – he played just seven passes and lost possession five times – but Liverpool were toothless without his bustling explorations from midfield. Henderson brought a more measured approach in his stead, but the Reds were deservedly beaten by Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo.

MINUTES PLAYED 19
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 0
Take-ons completed 0
Interceptions 1
Tackles 1

Rating: N/A

Oct. 7: 0-0 draw vs. Manchester City (home)

PAUL ELLIS / AFP / Getty

Keita was thrust into the action much earlier than anticipated when Milner was forced to depart Sunday’s underwhelming meeting with an injury. Considering the attacking habits of Liverpool and Manchester City, it was surprising that the match was played at such a steady tempo. And at that pace, Keita’s game should’ve been at the fore, but he seemed several yards behind the likes of Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho in midfield and, like many of his colleagues, didn’t provide much going forward. Perhaps Keita was still feeling his back issue, but there’s no doubting that Liverpool missed Milner.

MINUTES PLAYED 65
Goals 0
Assists 0
Key passes 0
Take-ons completed 0
Interceptions 1
Tackles 1

Rating: 5/10

How has Keita done in his first 10 matches?

OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty

Keita flew out of the traps against West Ham and Crystal Palace. However, those standout early performances appear to be outliers.

Out of those who have featured in Liverpool’s midfield three, Keita is being overshadowed by Milner and the underrated Wijnaldum, and is offering Henderson an opportunity to reclaim his automatic spot in the starting XI. Fellow newcomer Fabinho may even stake a first-team claim. Keita’s explosiveness in the Bundesliga that appealed to Klopp has waned, and is far below the quality of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s scuttling and scurrying before his unfortunate injury last season.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was a game-changer against Manchester City last term, but in Sunday’s showdown with Pep Guardiola’s throng, Keita seemed reluctant to compete in the midfield battle. He made just six more touches than Milner despite playing comfortably over double the Yorkshireman’s minutes, and his passing was the least accurate out of Reds who played more than half the game.

There has been a serious slump since Keita was formally introduced to English football, and Klopp may be wise to take him out of the spotlight now that the club has ended a tough run of fixtures. Up next for Liverpool are what should be more straightforward skirmishes with Huddersfield Town, Red Star Belgrade, and Cardiff City.

MINUTES PLAYED 576
Goals per 90 mins 0
Assists per 90 mins 0
Key passes per 90 mins 0.78
Take-ons completed per 90 mins 1.09
Interceptions per 90 mins 0.78
Tackles per 90 mins 2.5

Rating: 6.57/10

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