How data visualisations can explain Liverpool’s Naby Keïta conundrum

Visualisations can, at times, be an afterthought in the world of content. They’re used to break up written pieces of copy or to add a bit of colour to social media.

People use them because they feel they have to, not because they see the value in them. 

Because of this, you often see overcomplicated, busy viz which ruin the reader’s experience instead of embellishing it.  Visualisations, if used correctly, can say more than 1,000 words ever could.

If properly thought out, one snapshot can tell countless stories. They’re a writer’s best friend. 

It wasn’t that long ago that dropping a few stats in would be classed as analysis. But readers have been exposed to different metrics now.

There’s an expectation that everyone in the world of content has an understanding of stats. Simply stating pass accuracy isn’t going to cut it. There’s a thirst for context and granular analysis.

A comparison of Naby Keïta's heat maps for RB Leipzig and Liverpool.

People know all about heat maps. It helps visualise where a player impacts the play when in possession. The example above shows that Naby Keïta was more involved all over the pitch for RB Leipzig than he has been for Liverpool. For the Reds, his involvement is geared more towards the left side of the pitch. 

That in itself is a story. You can shape a piece of content around it. But with the Twenty3 Content Toolbox, you can analyse this even further.

A comparison of Naby Keïta's passes by zone visualisations for RB Leipzig and Liverpool.

This graphic shows Keïta’s passes by zone. This brings the heat map to life a little more.

In his final season in Germany, the midfield dynamo attempted 21 per cent of his passes from a central position just inside the opposition’s half, whereas for Liverpool that average sits at 17 per cent.

For the Reds, 52 per cent of his passes are made from the left side of the pitch whereas in Germany he was attempting 42 per cent of his passes from central areas.

A comparison of Naby Keïta's passing flow visualisations for RB Leipzig and Liverpool.

Fans always wonder why Keïta has failed to replicate his Bundesliga form and this goes some way to offering up an explanation.

For Die Roten Bullen, he was influencing play across the pitch; for Jürgen Klopp’s side he’s primarily doing so from the left.

The Guinean is now in a more structured side and doesn’t have the freedom to express himself.

A comparison of Naby Keïta's dribbles by zone for RB Leipzig and Liverpool.

A dribble by zone map backs this up. In Germany, Keïta was attempting on average close to six dribbles per 90. For Liverpool, that figure stands at 2.91.

For RB Leipzig, these often originated in that area where he played the majority of his passes. In fact, it was a standout area with 32 attempted dribbles. For Klopp’s side, that total is much lower (13) and it’s much closer to the next best area (11). 

By exploring beyond a heat map, we’re able to see that his starting point when in possession is drastically different since the switch to Liverpool and he’s not as expressive as he once was.

Both angles could be pieces of content in their own right. Both viz could have unique content shaped around them.