WINDHOEK, SEPT. 17 – The pick for African player of the month in August is Liverpool’s Guinean midfielder Naby Keita, who has made a major impact on the Premier League and helped the Reds rocket to the top of the log table with three straight wins.
Living up to the hype generated by his big-money move from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig (which was agreed in 2017 but only came into effect in the off-season) was always going to be tough work for the 23-year-old, but if anything he has exceeded expectations and taken to England’s top flight better than manager Jurgen Klopp would have dreamed of.
Keita has already added a new dimension to Liverpool’s game, with his powerful running ability providing a link between attack and midfield that was previously missing. His passing range is exceptional and he has the knack of drawing markers in before releasing teammates into space.
The Conakry-born midfielder has yet to register any goals or assists in his 244 minutes of Premier League action, but in a team with as much attacking intent as Liverpool it is only a matter of time before he starts racking them up.
Perhaps the best indication of Keita’s impact is this statistic: he has played the most accurate through balls (42.86 %) of any player in the English top flight so far this season. His overall pass completion rate is an excellent 88.7%, underlining his ability to both recycle the ball through midfield and quickly change the pace of an attack.
Keita has drawn praise from pundits, fans and coaches. Former Arsenal player Martin Keown sees the Guinean as the perfect midfielder: “He [Keita] just really is quality in possession. Look at the range of passing, the front three are really going to enjoy his service that he’s going to give them,” the Gunners legend explained.
But the best is yet to come from Keita, as Jurgen Klopp believes the player still has room for improvement in his Reds line-up.
“Everybody loves Naby but I don’t know if he loves us because he doesn’t speak a lot. But football-wise you can see the potential is outstanding but we have to give him time,” said the ‘Pool boss. “Defensively he’s very stable in his challenges. Tactically he can improve, and he must improve, but what else I don’t know.”
Keita is not the only African who has shone brightly in the Premier League so far this season, with his Liverpool teammates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane continuing the excellent form they showed last season; Wilfried Zaha remains Crystal Palace’s game-breaker, and recently became their all-time leading scorer in the PL; and Fulham’s Jean Michael Seri has proven just why he almost ended up at Barcelona a year ago with some brilliant displays for the Cottagers.
In Italy’s Serie A, Kevin-Prince Boateng has already made a big impact at Sassuolo; Ivorians Christian Kouame and Seko Fofana have impressed for Genoa and Udinese respectively; and man-mountain Kalidou Koulibaly continues to be Napoli’s rock in defence.
The best Africans in La Liga through the month of August were Moroccan winger Nabil El Zhar (who scored a brace of goals for Leganes this past weekend), and Algerian midfielder Aissa Mandi at Real Betis. – firstname.lastname@example.org