Well that was a dreadful experience all-round. The Reds set the tone for the night by conceding a big chance and shot off the post in the very first minute of play, and things didn’t much improve from there, as Napoli thoroughly pummeled the Reds from pillar to post and ran out deserved three-goal winners. Having hit the post, missed a penalty and seen a certain goal cleared off the line, the Partenopei will feel they should have put up historic numbers here.
There have been a lot of people claiming whatever most recent slightly disappointing performance has been the Reds worst game under Jürgen Klopp or whatever, but those people have largely been purveyors of hyperbole. Liverpool haven’t been firing on all cylinders this season, but they have largely been fine, putting up performances deserving of more points than they have ultimately collected.
Tonight was different. The Reds gave up somewhere between seven and nine clear cut chances — depending on which algorithm calculates chance quality — but either number is absolutely insane for this Liverpool team, exceeding even that ridiculous Aston Villa loss back in 2020/21.
Exactly what is going wrong with Liverpool this year is difficult to say — and you should look wildly askance at anyone who claims to have a simple solution — this is, after all, essentially the same team that was 12 minutes and a goal away from a quadruple just four months ago.
Injuries play a part, sure, because you can only do so much with the personnel available at any given time. Tactics are a factor, and the Reds do seem worse at denying teams the time to find their outlet than was the case last season, leading to a higher number of big chances on the counter.
Individual underperformance can’t be counted out either, and tonight saw Joe Gomez — one of Liverpool’s best performers so far this season — yanked off at half-time having had a hand in gifting Napoli all three of their goals, while Mo Salah failed to make any sort of impact, Andy Robertson couldn’t stop giving the ball away, and James Milner continues to look every day his age.
Ultimately, there’s a persistent tendency to start games terribly slow, a trend of running less than the opposition and losing duels at an astounding rate, and a general sense of physical exhaustion that is expected to be seen in April and May rather than August and September. Whether the result of a botched pre-season or a team-wide lack of application, it is something that needs to be sorted if the Reds are to have chance of getting back on track with regards to their ambitions for the season.
My Champions League Provider: Killed my feed a bunch of times, the heroes, allowing me to miss several minutes of this atrocious performance. Salute!
Every single one of us watching: Watching this team over the past few seasons has been treat after treat as they’ve won every single trophy on offer at least once. Right now, and especially tonight, it’s a chore, and a painful one.
Credit to the Opposition
Napoli were on one tonight. Beyond pressing and harrying a Liverpool side begging to be pressed and harried until they were well out of sight and could let their intensity levels drop, the Italians had clearly identified ways to work the ball to a man in space who could then take advantage of the Reds’ aggressive high line with first-time through balls, and executed on that information constantly.
The combination of tactical preparation, composure in high-intensity conditions, and pure physicality — in particular characterised by Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia — made Napoli formidable opposition tonight, and they might prove so against the rest of Europe’s elite this season.
What Happens Next
The good thing about a packed fixture list is that there’s always a new chance to make things right. Liverpool host Wolverhampton on Saturday, and will be looking to bounce back from tonight’s humiliation and cut into the six points that separate them from the top of the table.