A football statistics expert, who has chosen to remain unnamed, has explained to Liverpool’s Reddit community exactly why Naby Keita is such a mind-bogglingly exciting talent.
The 22-year-old Guinean has agreed £130k/week terms with us after meeting Jurgen Klopp and being persuaded of our project, but Liverpool still need to settle on a price with Red Bull Leipzig – easier said than done.
The expert, who has chosen not to reveal himself individually, works for (or with) German stats collators Impact, and has told Liverpool fans that Keita – quite simply – is extraordinary.
Not only does he score and assist goals, break up opposition play and create chances – but the quality of his passing is especially eye-opening – based on a new metric dubbed ‘packing’.
Here’s what he had to say:
I am very fortunate in my current job to be privy to a large amount of soccer data (metrics, advanced stats, etc.). I do not feel comfortable going into more detail on this, and I understand the skepticism that will accompany that claim; it is why I don’t often comment on reddit. However, last summer I felt compelled to comment just once about a young midfielder who is absolutely off the charts in regards to nearly every advanced metric that grades players. He even scored exceptionally high across separate midfield positions, which means that no matter what qualities were weighted highly in the metric (tackles for dm, impactful passes for am, etc.) he scored well. I won’t go into a whole lot of specifics about his stats, but I do want to mention one particular metric that makes him an extremely valuable player.
Packing – A metric which tries to determine the value of a pass or dribble by evaluating how many defenders it “takes out of the game”. Basically, how many defenders are in between the ball and the goal when a player receives the ball, and then how many still are when the next player receives it. Packing is very intuitive, and it’s something most viewers can notice while watching. The most well known company producing this data can be found here if you would like to read more about it. (also just google it, there are plenty of helpful articles)
Keita has absolutely incredible packing numbers. Even if most of his passes may look normal, he seems to always find a way to create a slight imbalance between offense and defense. He always picks the most impactful pass to give the attack whatever advantage can be gained based on current defender positioning. If you want to see an example, watch some of his full game highlights and take a look at how many times he is able to breakthrough the midfield “barrier” and push the ball into the space behind midfielders and in front of defenders. If you have watched Liverpool play under Klopp, you know how frustrating it is to watch a team have possession but be unable to exploit those gaps effectively to put pressure on a set defense.
Also as a side note, Sakho has always graded very high in this metric as well. Usually one of the only defenders near the top. It is why everyone on this sub was able to recognize that although his passing is clumsy, it is effective.
‘Packing’ is not in the public domain yet, but to us, seems like a very sensible statistic that recognises the difference between a five-yard sideways pass and one that is actually effective.
At the moment, we only see passes completed and success ratios, but bar from assists, are not privy to detailed insights into how telling a player’s pass is.
Keita seemingly has the ability to take defenders out of the game from midfield, which is exactly what we’re missing. Emre Can can’t do it, and Gini Wijnaldum doesn’t play this kind of ball regularly either.
Against smaller sides last term, we struggled to cross the game-line and often stagnated centrally, while our opponents sat back. Keita is the kind of player who fixes this problem and it’s no surprise Klopp’s happy for Liverpool to pay any price to acquire him.