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Liverpool lose to Napoli - reality check or one-off? - The Red Debate
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Following Liverpool’s loss in the Champions League group stages last night to Napoli, The Red Debate co-hosts Chris and Tom debate the game.


Chris: It always amazes me how quickly things change in football. It’s a fickle game. One minute, you’re the best team in the world, the next you’re under intense scrutiny. That applies to both club and player – Mo Salah being the prime example right now.

After the game last night, I couldn’t help but feel that a reality check had indeed hit home – are the mighty Reds the force everyone says they are? 

However, let’s put a few things into perspective. With City looming at the weekend, the Reds sit joint top of the Premier League and are still in a strong position to progress in the Champions League. We’ve also yet to get out of second gear. Alongside the emergence of a strong defence and GK, that’s the major positives. 

Last night did, however, unearth some negatives. Let’s take a few. Naby Keita, who many Liverpool fans (including Tom) think is the missing piece of the jigsaw, attempted seven passes and lost possession five times before going off injured. Fortunately, Keita seems like he’ll recover quickly but that’s worryingly bad stats. Then there is Mo Salah, who looks a mixture of unfit and lacking confidence right now. Even Mr Consistency James Milner put in a poor performance, and Robbo seemed all over the place. From Trent to Firmino, the team just never got going and were thoroughly outplayed. 

To their credit, Napoli played well and should really have put us to bed much earlier in the game. Hamsik bossed the game throughout and Koulibaly put in one hell of a defensive performance – pocketing Salah all game with ease. In truth, the Reds were appalling – only Alisson came out of the game with any positives. 

The result leaves the City game looking massive. Another loss and it’s out of the Carabao Cup, losing to Napoli and a dent to the title challenge within a few games. However, in the spirit of Klopp’s team, wouldn’t it be so ‘us’ to come out of the blocks racing and smash them off the bloody park?? 

Like a phoenix from the ashes, Salah to finally hit form and Trent to bend in a freekick? And a win would kick-start everything all again. Allez allez allez.

As I said, football is a fickle game.


Tom: It’s a frustrating result for the Reds, in large due to how toothless we were. Make it be known, Napoli played well against us. The Grandfather, Ancelotti, knows football. He worked us side to side in the masterful manner that has seen him win this trophy three times. That’s how you play against a zonal press. He had them switching us side to side all game long, running us into the ground.

Hamsik, for all the stick he deserves for persevering with that shite hair-do for the last decade, controlled it. They made us make mistakes in a manner we usually do to opposition teams. Their press, their hunting in packs and the atmosphere created in the ground seemed to overawe us. Young Trent looked more like the 19-year-old rookie that he by rights should look. Keita looked timid, losing the ball twice in the early exchanges. Salah looked swamped by Koulibaly, who turned in one of the best individual defensive performances against us that I can recall, perhaps since that ludicrous Kalas performance for Chelsea in 13/14 (I jest; but really, this still hurts me).

One of the most frustrating points last night was that we lost the battle of territory as the game progressed. Before Keita’s injury we were squeezing them high. Their left fullback was playing as a left fullback. As the game progressed he pushed high, pinning Trent back and expanding the gap between Trent and Salah. Koulibaly was imperious as they shifted to a back 3.

I’ll say it again: Hamsik was majestic. Some of his arrowed passes were breathtaking. The one coming to mind initially is the one he plays to Callejon from the left hand side; perfectly weighted.

Chris and I have disagreed invariably over Naby Keita. I personally think our ship sank when he went off last night. He was wasteful in possession on two noteworthy occasions but his surging run in the first half was the highlight of our performance in my mind.

Aside from the potential breakaway from their corner at which Robertson gets his pass wildly wrong, we created next to nothing. Henderson looked pumped for the first 5 minutes in which he was on the pitch but then got lost & in truth fed the narratives of those who don’t rate him. He wasn’t showing for the ball, he was slow and cumbersome in possession and he wasn’t looking like finding his front players. He wasn’t alone really; we couldn’t keep the bloody ball. Firmino was coming deeper & deeper looking for it. It didn’t work. No shots on target. Klopp’s Liverpool? No shots on target.

What I would say is that the more we see of him, the more Alisson looked imposing. He made a smart save from Millik, gets a touch on the Dries Mertens’ effort late on and just generally looks assured. Had we snatched a point, and it would have been a snatch, he’d have been hugely to thank. He comes off his line so well & he’s a player I can’t wait to watch the progress of. 

In the name of keeping positive, I thought Joe Gomez was bloody magnificent. I’m not having it that he’s at fault for their goal. He has to mark his space there & it’s an inch perfect ball from Callejon, also evading Alisson. I actually think he outshone Van Dijk. His ability on the ball seems to grow with every game & watching him cover ground in chasing a loose ball or a breaking opponent is like watching a young Gerrard go after someone.

Remember those ones? Stevie wins that tackle nearly every time. When he gets up his shorts have wedgied up into his arse from the slide. Yeah, you know the one. You knew he was winning it as soon as he set off after them. Well, Gomez is the same for me – I love watching him go after someone. He’s a future England captain for me & was my man of the match last night.

This aside, Klopp will surely go hard at them prior to the City game, the magnitude of which seems now all the greater. City’s the one. City’s the one for the Anfield crowd. City’s the one for Salah to bend one into the top bin for the winner & replicate his celebration amidst the flares at the Etihad last season.