Andy Robertson hailed “fantastic” Naby Keita’s performance in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth, and believes the under-fire midfielder just needs time to settle in with the side.
Much was expected of Keita after agreeing to join Liverpool last season and officially completing his move from RB Leipzig over the summer.
However, the midfielder has struggled with injuries and effectiveness in his debut season on the Merseyside, and has become a target for criticism.
Those critiques grew especially loud in the past week, as Keita started both of Liverpool’s 1-1 draws, with Leicester and West Ham respectively, as Man City passed the Reds in the table after a 2-0 win over Everton on Wednesday.
But Keita was part of a Liverpool midfield that had a strong day on Saturday, delivering the result needed to restore the club to the top of the Premier League, at least until Man City’s match against Chelsea on Sunday.
And Robertson, who assisted on Georginio Wijnaldum’s goal, praised the midfield for their performance and singled out Keita as having had his best game in a Liverpool shirt.
“They were different class,” Robertson told the club’s official website. “On my side, I thought that Naby was excellent.
“He has taken a wee bit of time to settle in but today was probably his best performance in a Liverpool shirt. I’m sure he can take a lot of confidence from that, which he will.
“Gini has been magnificent this season and he pops up with a goal and, to be fair to him, it’s a great finish. Fabinho just goes about his business and won the ball back for us so many times.
“So, the midfield won their battles and that set us off and everyone followed suit. I don’t think we lost many battles all over the field.”
Robertson also addressed the struggles of Keita, pointing out that the midfielder is not the first at the club to not make an immediate impact.
This season, Fabinho took time to become a key part of Klopp’s side, while last term Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Robertson himself only emerged as big contributors at around the halfway point of the campaign.
With Keita celebrating his 24th birthday on Sunday, Robertson backs his team-mate to mature into a similar star at Anfield.
“He’s young and he’s had to take time. But if you look at all of us, Fabinho had to take time, me, Chambo,” Robertson added.
“There’s a kind of pattern emerging that you need to settle in and you need to learn the way to play and things like that.
“I think everyone forgets how young Naby is – 24 tomorrow, he’s only a young boy. He’s a fantastic player and the more he shows it the more people will start talking about him.
“I thought today he was a different class. I’m sure his confidence will be sky high after today.”