Liverpool Beaten After Flat Display
Out of context, a 1-0 loss away to Napoli in the Champions League isn’t a big deal. However, it was the manner of this defeat that has Reds fans upset. In all honesty, the scoreline flattered us.
Liverpool’s midfield looked hapless, our fullbacks were run ragged, and worst of all, the attack failed to click yet again.
Lorenzo Insigne won it for the hosts in the 90th minute with a long overdue goal. Not many players in red can take any momentum into the Manchester City game.
Alisson – (Man of the Match) 8:
After the game, Klopp said “It’s always a bad sign when you have to say your goalkeeper was your best player, but it was obvious tonight”. That pretty much sums it up.
The Brazilian was outstanding and made several top saves to keep his team in the game. He was let down by some of his teammates who gifted chance after chance to the Italians.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 4:
In complete contrast to his performance against PSG where he easily handled Neymar, Trent was run ragged by Napoli. Even his passing, which usually very impressive, was wayward at times.
He was caught at the wrong end of the pitch too often and didn’t track back to resolve the issue. Manchester City will surely have identified this as an aspect to exploit.
Joe Gomez – 8:
Perhaps the only player whose form hasn’t dipped at any point this season. Joe was unbelievable again; comfortably coping with the quality attackers who tested him. He even led some attacks as he grew frustrated with the static midfielders ahead of him.
Some have questioned whether he should take some of the blame for the goal. He reacted a fraction too late for Insigne’s run, but that pales in comparison to the mistakes others made.
Virgil van Dijk – 7:
If it weren’t for our centre-back pairing, then the result could’ve been a lot worse. In particular, van Dijk made a courageous block to save his team around an hour into the game. He wasn’t as faultless as his partner though, Milner rescued one of his poor passes, and he was turned inside-out by Arkadiusz Milik.
Needs to be strong again on the weekend if his midfielders and fullbacks provide as little support against City as they did in this game.
Andy Robertson – 6:
Robbo wasn’t as bad as Trent defensively and positionally, despite having to deal with the pacy Jose Callejon. However, his final ball was lacking just like in the Chelsea game.
He’s a terrific player, but Robbo needs to improve his quality on the ball because so much of our play comes down the left-hand side. If he can, then he’ll be one of the best fullbacks in Europe, let alone the league.
Gini Wijnaldum – 6:
The best of the worst in midfield. There were times in the first half when I’d forgotten he was on the pitch, but he did improve in the second. His impeccable first touch helped the midfield maintain something of a foothold in the game.
The main reason he’s rated higher than his midfield colleagues is that Gini didn’t make any glaring mistakes, rather than having a good individual display.
James Milner – 5:
This was Milner’s worst performance in recent memory. In the last few matches Milner has fatigued as games went on, but against Napoli he looked tired from the get-go.
Fabinho was rightly brought on to replace him, but the change arguably could’ve come sooner as Milner did nothing to lead his side to victory aside from his usual marathon running.
Naby Keita – 3:
A Champions League night to forget for the Guinean for more reason than one. He misplaced passes and generally looked lost in a game that should’ve been his for the taking.
Went down injured after 19 minutes, and despite his performance, Liverpool fans will be hoping that he’ll be back sooner rather than later.
Sadio Mane – 6:
Despite most of the talk being about Salah’s ‘slump’, Mane doesn’t look much better at the moment. However, some more protection from the referee could’ve led to a more fruitful night.
He was as lively as ever, but too often he gave the ball away when Liverpool had a chance to create something. Unfortunately, those chances didn’t come very often either.
Mo Salah – 6:
Like Mane, you can’t fault Salah’s effort. He’s a player that’s clearly struggling for confidence. Statistically, he’s roughly on par with where he was this time last season, but you can’t help but feel that he’s not coping well.
Maybe he is going through a slump after all. Or perhaps we as fans need to manage our expectations better. Only time will tell.
Bobby Firmino – 7:
Bobby toiled through the match and did his best to try and create something with the scraps he was being fed from midfield. In all fairness, he did forge a couple of half-chances, but they led to nothing.
A lot of Salah’s success last season could be attributed to Bobby. He can’t do it alone though, he needs someone to feed and play off of.
Jordan Henderson – 6 (on for Keita 19′):
Hendo looked fired up when he came on, but unfortunately, he couldn’t transfer his enthusiasm into quality opportunities for the forwards.
Fabinho (on for Milner 76′) – 5:
Fabinho wasn’t too bad, but he’s yet to show proper glimpses of the quality that we all know he possesses.
Daniel Sturridge (on for Mane 89′) – N/A:
Should’ve been brought on much earlier. No time to make an impact.
Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Jurgen Klopp – 4:
While the result doesn’t rest solely on Klopp’s shoulders, he was outdone by a tactical masterclass from Carlo Ancelotti.
Klopp seemed reluctant to change his game plan even though it was clearly not working and the players weren’t executing it. The manager can hardly be blamed for individual errors though.
Strangely, Klopp went back to his old ways by taking an age to bring on his subs to try and rescue the game. Granted, he was a sub down after being forced into a change 19 minutes into the game, but Milner was exhausted long before he was subbed off. Likewise, Shaqiri and Sturridge can feel slightly miffed at not being trusted to change the game.
What This Means For Our Champions League Dream
In short, not a lot, yet. Napoli now sit on top of the group with four points, while PSG and Liverpool are tied for second with three points each.
Three points from a home game against PSG and an away trip to Napoli is nothing to be embarrassed by. However, given that the next two matches should be relatively easy wins against Red Star Belgrade, a draw in this fixture would’ve surely secured progression into the round of 16 with two games to spare.
There’s no time to dwell on that though, and the Reds will do what Liverpool do best: we go again. We’ll be better in the return leg, and that should be enough to get the job done so long as the PSG vs Napoli fixtures go our way.
Before the season started, this was a fixture that most Liverpool fans were gleefully looking forward to. But now there’s a sense of dread for what could happen if we aren’t at our best.
City have the quality to wreak havoc on the very best European sides, and Liverpool aren’t playing like one at the moment. Thankfully, City aren’t in top form either despite a string of good results.
The Citizens have key injuries that could be enough to give Liverpool a chance of recapturing the play that brought the champions to their knees last season.
It may not seem like it, but there are some positives to take away. First and foremost, our centre backs and goalkeeper are outstanding. This is not a trait that has been associated with Liverpool for a very long time. Given that we’re below par at the moment, the fact that those three are still standing strong bodes well for when we are up and running.
We haven’t been brilliant in any of our games this season, but this is the first one where we were poor. Klopp knows that, and so do the players. This isn’t a trend that’s been plaguing us, all we need is a bit of luck to get the engines roaring and we’ll be on our way to greatness.
You could even argue that this is a good time to play City despite that fact that our form isn’t ideal. We usually rise for big games, and a good result in this one could be just what the doctor ordered for our players who are struggling.