Liverpool displayed the classic characteristics of a team on course to win the Premier League title against Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds weren’t at their best but still managed to grind out a 4-3 victory in front of their home supporters at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s men went 1-0 down and were later pegged back to 2-2 but still had enough in the tank to score two more goals before full-time. Max Meyer’s stoppage-time goal set up a nervy finale but, as all potential champions need to do from time to time, they held on to secure all three points.
Liverpool subsequently re-opened their lead over second-placed Manchester City to seven points, although Pep Guardiola’s side will reduce the deficit back to four points if they win away at Huddersfield on Sunday afternoon.
Klopp’s players now have a much-needed 10-day break before their next fixture against Leicester City on January 30.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Naby Keita starts against the Foxes. The 23-year-old midfielder, who arrived in a big-money deal from RB Leipzig last summer, was disappointing on Saturday.
He lasted 71 minutes before he was substituted for Xherdan Shaqiri. The Liverpool Echo handed him a 5/10 rating which, in truth, wasn’t unfair on the Guinea international.
The Daily Mail’s Dominic King was particularly unimpressed with what he saw from Keita, who cost Liverpool a cool £52.75 million.
And he noticed a couple of incidents during the first half, which he describes as ‘concerning’.
“The more Keita tried, the more things started to conspire against him,” King wrote. “He wanted to smash a volley in the 28th minute but ended up getting in the way of the better positioned Andrew Robertson; when Virgil van Dijk ushered him forward in the 28th minute, James Tomkins slid in to rob him.
“These things can happen to a player but more concerning were the gestures from Klopp and Van Dijk, at different points in the first half, telling him to impose himself on the contest. The inference was clear: do not wait for things to happen.
“But that's what exactly he did. Keita's stride became shorter, his touches less frequent. As Liverpool staged a dramatic comeback, he was on the periphery and it was no surprise when Xherdan Shaqiri eventually replaced him.”
Keita looked the business in the Bundesliga but hearing that his manager and teammates currently feel forced to instruct the midfielder to ‘impose himself on the contest’ is, indeed, concerning.
This is something he should be doing on his own accord. He was signed to strengthen Liverpool’s midfield but, right now, it doesn’t seem to be working out.
“Keita had become a bit part performer during Liverpool's surge to the top of the table but, with Palace back in town, his manager felt compelled to turn to him again, picking him in the Premier League for the first time since December 22,” King continued.
“Had time on the sidelines sparked the improvement Klopp had hoped? The blunt answer was no.
“Keita started with purpose, exchanging a one-two with Fabinho after 52 seconds and attempting to drive towards Palace's penalty area, but he was blocked off. So began the pattern of his afternoon.”
King added: “It would be too soon to say his signing has failed but one thing is certain: after 17 games, no goals and a solitary assist, Liverpool expected more for their investment.
“The next time Keita is seen in public - and it could be against Leicester owing to Fabinho's late injury - he needs to step it up.”
That’s a withering assessment of Keita’s performance; however, he’s clearly a far better player than what we’re seeing at the moment.