Liverpool journalist James Pearce has backed midfielder Naby Keita to take on a starring role in Jurgen Klopp’s side this season.

The Athletic writer is hoping that Keita can kick on this campaign and make himself a mainstay in the midfield three alongside Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.

Speaking in his Mailbag for The Athletic, Pearce praised the former Leipzig man. “I think the answer to that depends largely on whether Naby Keita can deliver the talent we know he possesses on a regular basis.

“I really hope he kicks on this season. If he plays to the level he can, then I really like the idea of a Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Keita midfield.”

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GENK, BELGIUM – OCTOBER 23: Naby Keita of Liverpool during the UEFA Champions League group E match between KRC Genk and Liverpool FC at Luminus Arena on October 23, 2019 in Genk, Belgium. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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Keita is the youngest player in Liverpool’s midfield group, which does suggest that he could have the most potential to improve as a player. He has time on his side to develop into a regular, consistent, first-team squad member. The question, as James says, is whether or not he can do that this season.

The central midfielder was only handed nine Premier League starts last term, yet he was able to record a higher WhoScored rating than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum. If Klopp starts him on a regular basis, that data suggests that he could be a better option than Oxlade-Chamberlain or Wijnaldum for the third midfield spot next to Fabinho and Henderson.

Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain were only able to muster up one assist between them in the Premier League, whilst Keita produced three despite playing fewer minutes than both of them. His creative edge in the final third could help Liverpool unlock tight defences and add to their goal tally, which could be why James Pearce has earmarked him for potential success ahead of the other competing for that role.

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