Throughout the Jurgen Klopp era at Liverpool, it would be hard to point to one thing alone that has been the most impressive. The style of play, the development of a squad in organic fashion, and the season-by-season progress has been hugely important. However, if fans to had pick one thing that has been most impressive about the Liverpool squad in recent years, it would be the transfer dealings.
Very few singings have been flops – the vast majority have been, in the main, excellent. Some have taken a little bit of time to settle, though, and within that group would be Ibrahima Konaté. The outstanding France defender arrived from RB Leipzig and quickly became one of the most respected players in the dressing room.
His commitment, his development, his professionalism, and his form has been excellent to watch. However, like many young players in their first year at an elite club, ‘Ibou’ has struggled with consistency.
If the big defender is ever to become the long-term Joel Matip replacement he was likely bought for, he needs to become more consistent.
Take his performance against SL Benfica in the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League. He scored in both legs, but was directly responsible for the gaol that Darwin Nunez scored in Lisbon. He also was a touch over the place during the second leg, though the whole team arguably began to stroll that evening and thus Konaté cannot be blamed alone.
In the semi finals against Villarreal, Konaté handled the Yellow Submarine with complete ease in the first leg. In the second leg, like most, he looked utterly bedraggled in the first half. It took an outstanding turnaround in form from everyone in the second half to see the Reds through to the final.
Can Konaté find the consistency needed?
One thing to note about Konate is that this is his first season in English football. He has had some injury issues to deal with, but in his 24 games in his first season at Liverpool he has performed manfully. Solid in the league whenever called upon, he was also a decisive force in the FA Cup semi-final win against Manchester City. He opened the scoring with a wonderful header, and then helped the Reds see out the end of the game in a needlessly nervy 3-2 win.
His goals against Benfica were much the same – accurate, arching headers from a left-sided corner. He has clearly found a harmony with his teammates on the attacking side of the game. However, he has become prone at losing the ball or being caught in possession at times at the highest level. He also has a tendency to foul when Jurgen Klopp and co. would probably rather he simply held the play up.
A natural ball-player with excellent passing and a real force in the air, something that Matip rarely offers, Konaté is simply a year of development away from becoming a mainstay in the side. He offers the physicality and the pace that Virgil van Dijk needs as his partner, and he provides excellent technique. For Konaté, it feels like a matter of time until he finally clicks and the small, surprising mistakes are eradicated from his game.
Like almost every other mainstay signing under Klopp, Konaté looks like he well be money well-spent in the long-term.