Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Naby Keita had been demanding answers as to why he wasn't being given a chance from the start, following his match-winning performance against Bournemouth.
The £52m acquisition from RB Leipzig arrived at Anfield last summer to much fanfare, but a culmination of injury and form issues have caused him to struggle to break into a competitive midfield.
With Fabinho out injured and the fixtures piling up, however, Keita was called into the starting lineup as the Reds travelled to face Bournemouth and delivered one of his best performances yet for the club.
Naby Keïta vs Bournemouth:— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) December 7, 2019
• 13 ball recoveries - most on the pitch
• 30 attacking third passes - most on the pitch
• 3 chances created - most on the pitch
• 1 goal
• 1 assist
The all-round complete midfield performance pic.twitter.com/lW27DR3BxU
Scoring his first of the season and assisting another for Mohamed Salah, two of the Reds' three goals came via the 24-year-old, who showed Klopp exactly why he should be selected more often, even if the players ahead of him in the pecking order are in terrific form.
“The team is in really good shape so you ask do you change, and if you want to change?" Klopp said, as quoted by The Mirror. "It’s not like we won all our games 4-0 or 5-0 so we wanted to bring on a player to defend set-pieces.
“Naby is sitting outside thinking: ‘Why don’t I play?’ I get all that. We spoke a lot about it, but in the end the player needs to know the coach still believes in you. There was never doubt about that.
“He was just unlucky, he started really well, he needed luck. He then got injured, we had two really good seasons, then if something is really working you ask whether if you can squeeze five more per cent out of them with another player.
16 - Of the 18 outfield players to feature for Liverpool in the Premier League this season, Naby Keita is the 16th to score; only in 2015-16 have they had more different scorers in a single Premier League campaign (17). Plethora. pic.twitter.com/X81GWpKq51— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 7, 2019
"We started again in pre-season, he was not 100 per cent when he started.”
If there was any doubt in Klopp's mind that Keita can provide something extra to Liverpool's midfield, then that is likely to have been dispelled by an irresistible attacking performance from the Guinean.
And it's just in time, too, as the Reds face Red Bull Salzburg in a key Champions League decider on Tuesday, before hosting Watford prior to heading out to Qatar for the Club World Cup, while a second-string side stay behind to face Aston Villa in the EFL Cup.