Display of “also-rans” leaves Reds facing first test of credentials – Media on Napoli 1-0 Liverpool

4 October 2018

The media were critical of Liverpool’s performance in the 1-0 loss to Napoli and feel the Reds now face a big test of their trophy credentials.


The chance to build on the perfect start made against PSG was wasted as the Reds deservedly lost to Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

Just as it appeared Liverpool had managed to escape Stadio San Paolo with a point, Lorenzo Insigne slid in to convert Jose Callejon’s cross and condemn Jurgen Klopp’s men to defeat.

It was no less than the Reds deserved in truth after a dire performance, and a significant improvement will be needed for Sunday’s early title showdown against Man City.

Before attention turns to that mouth-watering clash, here’s how the media assessed a disappointing night in Naples.

 

The watching journalists pulled no punches on Liverpool’s performance

NAPLES, ITALY - Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' and goalkeeper Alisson Becker look dejected as Napoli score an injury time winning goal during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio San Paolo. Napoli won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Writing for Goal.com, Neil Jones felt it was arguably the worst display the Reds have produced under Klopp:

It might just be the worst display Liverpool have delivered on his watch.

The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce labelled it “a painful throw back to the dark days when the Reds were also-rans in Europe”:

This was a painful throwback to the days when Liverpool were also-rans in Europe.

The Mirror’s David Maddock was brutal in his criticism, assessing the performance as worse than that dished up by Roy Hodgson’s side at the same venue in 2010:

So much has been made of the transformation in fortunes of the Reds since they last visited Napoli, in 2010 under Roy Hodgson, with a team made up of woefully obscure footnotes in Anfield history.

Yet Wednesday night’s performance was – incredibly – worse, as Jurgen Klopp‘s team of all-stars somehow managed to avoid having even a single shot on target to slump to defeat against an energetic but hardly intimidating Napoli team.

The Mail’s Dominic King was among numerous reporters who felt Liverpool looked the opposite of a Klopp team, criticising how the Reds were “passive, meek and vulnerable”:

This performance was far removed from what you expect of a Klopp team; they were passive, meek and vulnerable and Napoli, in all honesty, should have secured three points long before the final seconds.

 

Reporters gave their thoughts on what went wrong and discussed various negatives from the night

NAPLES, ITALY - Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Liverpool's xxxx during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Independent’s Simon Hughes was critical of the Reds’ midfield and in particular their lack of control in possession:

This was a wretched performance and a deserving outcome that merits criticism because of Liverpool’s improvidence in possession, particularly from the midfield.

The Evening Standard’s David Lynch felt Liverpool drowned under Napoli’s press and thought the Serie A side showed the blueprint in how to beat Klopp’s side:

Liverpool’s midfield simply could not deal with Napoli’s relentless pressing and, whenever the ball got as far as the forwards, they were swarmed by the hosts’ proactive defenders.

Not every team has the quality to produce such a performance against the Reds but, for those who do, this is the way to beat them.

The Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle thought the Reds looked tired and assessed that the gruelling run of games has caught up with Klopp’s side:

This, though, was the first sign the pivotal run of seven games in 23 days is catching up with Klopp’s side.

Liverpool looked tired, their pressing limited, the energy among the front three Sadio Mane apart – sadly lacking.

NAPLES, ITALY - Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Liverpool's Naby Keita (C) and Napoli's Allan Marques Loureiro (L) and José Callejón (R) during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Off the pitch, our own Karl Matchett felt Klopp should have done more to change the game, explaining how the German was too slow with changes and lacked ideas to swing momentum:

But, as the second half gradually but visibly slipped away from Liverpool, it was frustrating to see no changes, no altered formation, no real attempt to wrest back control.

[…]

Changes could have been made earlier: Fabinho to right-back? Xherdan Shaqiri as an outlet? Even Daniel Sturridge on for one of the forwards a little earlier, in case a shooting chance from range emerged?

Meanwhile, the Independent’s Tom Kershaw reflected on Naby Keita’s injury and explained how the Reds will lose a dimension if the Guinean is out for a while:

Henderson may well have started in place of the Guinean on the weekend but after his introduction to the midfield tonight Liverpool’s agility and menace through the centre wilted.

If Keita is out for a considerable period as feared, and Fabinho remains a mythical entity, Liverpool lose a dimension.

 

Post-match reports featured plenty of concern for Liverpool’s missing attack

NAPLES, ITALY - Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Liverpool's xxxx during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Kershaw noted how the Reds look more cautious going forward:

The more callous interpretation would state that there was an unfamiliar meekness in Liverpool’s attack and a cautiousness rather than ruthless rabidity in the face of their opponents.

Maddock focussed on Mohamed Salah’s struggles in particular, and thinks that hesitancy is proving the Egyptian’s biggest problem currently:

Mo Salah is struggling badly, his hesitancy so painfully evident as he chose the wrong options and failed to beat men.

ESPN’s Glenn Price feels Salah’s main issue is that he is crumbling under the pressure he is putting on himself:

It looks like the person placing the biggest expectation on Salah to repeat last season’s heroics is Salah. That’s his biggest issue at the moment.

The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe was among a number of reporters who think Liverpool’s new solidity has come at a cost to the blistering attack play:

The mild criticism so far is Liverpool have conceded flamboyance so evolve this solidity. Those fifteen-minute attacking blitzes so often leading to two or three goals have been conspicuously absent, Liverpool offering impressively efficient rather than showy football.

Lynch pondered whether a less blitzing attack is something we will have to become used to seeing, with Klopp perhaps preferring a more sustainable way of winning:

The Reds pick their moments to press much more carefully these days, possibly thanks to the fact that the forwards no longer feel they must burn themselves out protecting a leaky backline. They are also happy to spend more time in possession, rather than attempting to simply spring counter-attacks at every opportunity.

These tactical tweaks may have made Klopp’s team a touch less exciting, but perhaps their form – tonight aside – is more sustainable as a result.

 

Certain journalists believe Liverpool are now facing the first major test of their trophy winning credentials

NAPLES, ITALY - Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Liverpool's players line-up for a team group photograph before the UEFA Champions League Group C match between S.S.C. Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio San Paolo. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Doyle thinks Klopp has a big job on to get his team back on track:

How Klopp rouses his team will be interesting. This is the first real test of this Liverpool’s trophy aspirations.

Lynch assessed Sunday’s huge clash with Man City as the ideal fixture to bounce back strongly:

But, while it’s a challenge, there is arguably no better game to prove that tonight’s result in Naples was nothing but a blip.

A victory over Pep Guardiola’s team and all will be forgiven going into the international break, not least because the Reds’ Champions League destiny remains firmly in their hands.

Matchett believes the Reds need to win both games against Red Star Belgrade to make up for the advantage lost in Wednesday’s defeat:

Home and away, victory over Red Star has to be the absolute priority. The defeat in Naples can be mitigated with a six-point haul from the Serbians, given Napoli themselves only managed to draw in Belgrade.

A hard-earned advantage has been quickly wiped out, and this double-header will prove crucial in terms of who progresses to the knockouts.

Finally, Jones provided one positive point – that being the performances of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk:

Joe Gomez was Liverpool’s best player, and his partnership with Virgil van Dijk continues to impress, but elsewhere too many fell short of the standards required.

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