Naby Keita has rediscovered form and confidence after two goals in two games and Liverpool might now see the best of him more consistently.
At the turn of the year, the No. 8 looked to be getting into a groove, playing well and appearing regularly.
Without warning, it seemed, Keita was back on the bench and barely used, a surprising omission not just from starting lineups but often even as a substitute in matches.
Of late, though, he has turned matters around: a start and goal against Southampton, followed by another start and a second deflected strike in the Champions League against Porto—a 90 minutes which was one of his best since joining the Reds.
The confidence in his own game is once more apparent in his movement, his work off the ball and his attempts to be creative in the final third and it bodes well for the Reds in the run-in to have Keita in such strong form.
Keita told LiverpoolFC.com that he’s naturally pleased with recent events, but that he hopes more is yet to come and it’s the team which comes first.
“Of course, yes, I think all players, everyone, would be happy to score their first goal. But for me, the most important thing is the team – and I’d love the team to win every match we play.
“Yes, it’s true it’s taken a while for me to score, but I’m a midfielder and we already have goalscorers here – Mo Salah, [Roberto] Firmino, Sadio [Mane] – so we in midfield take advantage of the opportunity to help them.
“We are there to help them score and if we also have the chance to score ourselves, we try to take it. But the most important thing is for the team to win – above everything.
“When you hear things like that about yourself, you just have to carry on and try to do more. You can’t stop and you can’t be happy with it. I am happy people appreciate me – and what it does for me is give me more desire to work harder and do more.
“Yes, of course I’m happy [with my form].
“For me it is nothing [at the moment], I am going to carry on training and following the advice of the manager during the sessions – and that’s it.”
With Keita improving and Jordan Henderson suddenly thriving further upfield, Liverpool suddenly have plenty more options and a battle for centre midfield spots.
Not only have both played well, but they have scored goals across the past couple of games and been involved in the creation of others.
Along with Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner, it means real competition for places for Jurgen Klopp to choose from in the centre of the park.
That competition should push each player to improve further and Keita insists he’s doing all he can to better himself.
“Before training I go to the gym with [Mane] every day to try to improve. I am feeling good and I am going to carry on like that to finish the season well with the team.
“It’s up to the manager to tell me how I can improve, but during training I try to give everything, especially to get the ball back and run a lot on the pitch because I’m in midfield.
“And also, to try to help make our forwards score goals.”
A big end to his first season on Merseyside would not only give Keita the confidence to hit the ground running in 2019/20, but will also significantly boost the Reds’ chances of landing a major title this term.