Klopp keen for Keïta to regain confidence
Guinea international midfielder is expected to start tonight in reshuffled side
Jürgen Klopp has said Naby Keïta will become a major influence at Liverpool, but must perform with more confidence to recapture the form that prompted his ¤58.89 million move to Anfield.
The Guinea international midfielder is expected to start at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the third round tonight when Klopp will make several changes following an intense festive period.
The expensive summer recruit has not featured since the 2-0 win at Molineux on December 21st, when the 23-year-old was substituted due to injury, although he was fit for the matches against Newcastle, Arsenal and Manchester City.
Keïta has made 10 starts in all competitions for Liverpool this season and, though minor injuries have hindered his impact on Klopp’s team, the manager admits tactics and form have also limited the player’s opportunities.
“It was not an injury, no, it’s just how it is sometimes,” said the Liverpool manager on the midfielder’s recent absence. “I spoke to Naby. Everything is fine. I am completely happy with Naby, but could he be a bit more confident in the games? Yes. Is he exactly the player in his best time at Leipzig? No. He is still adapting, that’s how it is.
“Everyone saw at the beginning of the season how brilliant he played. Tottenham was a fantastic game from him.
“We made a change around the PSG game, I don’t know when exactly, and the boys have to deal with it. A little injury here, a little injury there, and it was kind of a little setback, but he is a fantastic player and I am really happy to have him here. It is so good and I am looking forward to our common future. You see it every day, wow, there is so much to come and there is so much influence he can have on each game. That is all good.
“There was no reason, just other boys were in a good shape as well, a bit was positioning, the system, all that stuff, and that’s how football decisions are. There is really no doubt about the boy, he is an outstanding player.”
Simon Mignolet will start in goal against Wolves, and Klopp is considering a role for his Dutch 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever with his defensive options limited by injuries to Joe Gomez and Joël Matip.
The injured pair are not expected back in full training until after Saturday’s visit to Brighton. Fabinho could move from central midfield into defence should Klopp decide to rest Virgil van Dijk or Dejan Lovren.
“We need to be creative or we play the two again,” said Klopp on his central defensive selection. “We will see what we do. We will not sign a centre-half for one game or whatever, that will not happen. Joe and Joël look good but obviously not good enough for Monday, and probably not for Brighton. Hopefully after that they are in full team training.”
Sixteen-year-old defender Hoever has been training with the first team after making rapid progress through the youth sides and while there is a possibility of him travelling with the squad to Molineux, Klopp is unsure whether he will see any action.
“He’s one for the future, of course. But what we will do with him now for the game, I don’t know,” said Klopp.
“If Joel (Matip) and Joe (Gomez) would have been fit all the time now then probably Ki-Jana would not have been in training. Now he was in and still is in, it’s just a joy to watch him.
“He’s an incredible, confident, young fella and he’s really a good player on top. That we can see him day in, day out is really cool.
“For sure for the future. When the future starts? I don’t know. But he’s in, he learns a lot, he improves and it will happen automatically.
“It’s a nice prospect for the next month and years. I don’t know (whether he will be involved for Wolves). We will see.”
The progress of the Dutch youth international is one of the reasons Klopp was happy to let former England right-back Nathaniel Clyne go out on loan to Bournemouth on Friday.
Although he currently only has Trent Alexander-Arnold as a recognised right-back until Gomez recovers from a fractured bone in his foot the German was relaxed about allowing a senior player to leave.
“He is in an age where he has to play. He came and asked if he can go. I thought about it and said: ‘Yes you can’,” said Klopp.
“We have other options, younger boys coming up. You can always keep a player but to keep him in the right shape and with the right amount of confidence that’s not always easy.”
Klopp is likely to take under-23 players Curtis Jones and Rafael Camacho, both of whom have been training with the first team for more than a year now, with him to the West Midlands.
Neither has yet made their senior debut but could be in the squad. “Curtis is another good example, he’s just a fantastic player. It’s just brilliant to have them around,” Klopp added.