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Winners & Losers

Liverpool's poor football, poor application, poor preparation: Winners, losers and ratings in Naples thrashing

22:15 BST 07/09/2022
Liverpool Salah Fabinho Elliott 2022
That is on the manager, his staff and the players.

Liverpool were beaten 4-1 by Napoli on a night to forget for Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Co., their Champions League campaign beginning in the worst possible fashion, as they were embarrassed in their opening Group A match - their worst European defeat since 1966.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were blown away by a first-half blitz from the Italians, who scored three times in the opening 45 minutes through Piotr Zielinski, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Giovanni Simeone, and still found time to miss a penalty through Victor Osimhen.

The Reds were shell-shocked, and things didn’t get any better after half-time as within two minutes of the restart Zielinski made it 4-0, following up after Alisson had saved his initial effort.

Luis Diaz pulled a goal back almost immediately with a fine 20-yard strike, but it was the only positive on a night which laid bare all of the problems which have been gathering at Klopp’s door in the early stages of the season.

  • Luciano Spalletti Jurgen Klopp Napoli Liverpool 2022

    The Winners

    Luciano Spalletti:

    No wonder the Napoli boss was all smiles as he greeted Jurgen Klopp ahead of kick-off. Maybe he knew what was about to come?

    Klopp was effusive in his praise for Spalletti at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday, and clearly respects the Italian's coaching skills. He'll respect them even more after Napoli put Liverpool to the sword in a way few sides have in recent years.

    The Serie A side were brilliant, sharp and clever with their movement, exposing Liverpool's terrifyingly-high defensive line repeatedly, and playing their way through midfield with composure, belief and bags of quality.

    Whether it was Victor Osimhen, who was excellent outside of his penalty miss, or the brilliant trio of Piotr Zielinski, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Napoli had all the game's outstanding performers.

    And on the sideline, they had its outstanding coach.

    Luis Diaz:

    Well, at least one Reds starter played as though he believed. The Colombian was very much a lone wolf as the night got away from his side, his desire and purpose standing out a mile in contrast to his traumatised team-mates.

    Diaz got Liverpool's consolation goal early in the second half with a very well-taken 20-yarder, and he would have had another soon after had Alex Meret not clawed away his powerful header.

    It feels a little silly to pick a Liverpool player as a 'winner' on a night like this, in truth, but if there was one player who showed the mentality of one then it was Diaz. He'd be entitled to ask where everyone else was on the night.

    Thiago Alcantara:

    Can the Spaniard be the man to save the Reds' season? Having limped off in the opening game of the season at Fulham, Thiago made his long-awaited return from injury here as a second-half substitute.

    The game was gone by the time he arrived, but at least he played with some bite, some control and his usual class. Nobody in red won more tackles, and nobody lost possession on fewer occasions. Thiago won all of his duels and, in amongst all of the negativity, at least offered a glimmer of hope for a brighter future.

  • Joe Gomez Khvicha Kvaratskhelia Liverpool Napoli 2022

    The Losers

    Jurgen Klopp:

    If the Liverpool boss wasn't already aware of the scale of his side's troubles, he most definitely is now.

    What has happened to the Reds, and can Klopp fix it? Those are the two burning questions right now, and this defeat - and most importantly the manner of it - should set alarm bells ringing.

    Liverpool have played poorly before. They've played poorly in Naples before, as it happens. But rarely have they looked as bereft as they did in the first 45 minutes tonight. This wasn't just poor football, it was poor application, poor organisation and, judging by the way they started the contest, poor preparation too.

    That's on the manager and his staff, as well as the players. Whatever they're doing right now, it isn't working. This was a night which made that crystal clear.

    Joe Gomez:

    Gomez's return to the heart of Liverpool's defence has generally gone well this season, but he was absolutely terrorised here.

    Where do you even start? The woeful attempt to play offside which allowed Osimhen to hit the post inside a minute? The dallying on the ball which would have led to a goal had it not been for Van Dijk's goalline clearance soon after? The complete inability to deal with Khvaratskhelia in the box for Napoli's third goal?

    It was painful to watch, Gomez sluggish, nervous and unable to get a grip of his game as Napoli went after him. He wasn't alone, by any means, but wow he was exposed here. His substitution at half-time felt like an act of mercy.

    James Milner:

    He's been a wonderful player for Liverpool, let's get that straight, but there's no doubt that Milner is struggling at the moment, and he certainly struggled here.

    Asked to provide experience, bite and nous in midfield, he offered little of any. It was his handball which allowed Napoli to take the lead from the spot early on, he was booked for a rash lunge soon after and though there was, of course, no shortage of endeavour, he looked all of his 36 years against younger and sharper opposition.

    He did well to last an hour, and it will surely be a while before he starts a game like this again.

  • Van Dijk Matip Fabinho Liverpool Napoli 2022-23

    Liverpool Ratings: Defence

    Alisson Becker (6/10):

    Huge save to keep out Osimhen's penalty at 1-0 and swept up well when he could, but let down by the rest of his teammates.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold (4/10):

    Some sharp passes, but he was nowhere to be seen defensively, and at times looked reluctant to even attempt to track back.

    Andy Robertson (5/10):

    Little of note, at either end of the field.

    Joe Gomez (3/10):

    Had a nightmare from the first minute to the 45th. It was no surprise at all to see him replaced by Matip at half-time.

    Virgil van Dijk (4/10):

    Perhaps the worst game the Dutchman has ever played in a Liverpool shirt. The Reds' defensive line was a shambles, and exposed time and again by Napoli's movement. Conceded a penalty, cleared one off the line and generally looked like he wanted to be anywhere but here.

  • James Milner Liverpool Napoli 2022-23

    Midfield

    Fabinho (4/10):

    Missing in action as Anguissa made it 2-0, and played around in midfield. Looks leggy and overworked.

    Harvey Elliott (5/10):

    Making only his second Champions League appearance, he was unable to get a grip of the game as Napoli left the Reds midfield bewildered.

    James Milner (3/10):

    Gave away a penalty inside four minutes and was booked inside 10. Did well to last as long as he did.

  • Liverpool Mohamed Salah Harvey Elliott Napoli 2022-23

    Attack

    Mohamed Salah (4/10):

    Lax touch with a great chance at the far post and saw another effort saved by Meret.

    Luis Diaz (7/10):

    One of the few who tried to take the fight to Napoli, albeit only really when the game had already gotten away from Liverpool. Great finish and denied a second goal by Meret.

    Roberto Firmino (4/10):

    Lacked precision and aggression.

  • Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Joel Matip (6/10):

    Brought on for Gomez at half time and was immediately caught out trying to hold a woeful high line. Did OK after that.

    Diogo Jota (5/10):

    On for Salah but did precious little.

    Darwin Nunez (5/10):

    Had one shot blocked, but did little else.

    Thiago Alcantara (7/10):

    A welcome return from injury, albeit on a harrowing evening otherwise. Showed some class.

    Arthur (6/10):

    Made his debut late on.

    Jurgen Klopp (4/10):

    Will have nightmares about that first half, when his side looked totally underprepared for the home side's energy and movement. Could have made 10 subs at half-time.