Liverpool put in a pretty desolate display at Stadio San Paolo and conceded a late goal to Napoli to lose their first game of the Champions League campaign last night. It was by far the Reds’ worst performance of the season as they simply didn’t have an answer to Napoli’s pressing.
Though the defeat doesn’t mean much considering there are still four matchdays to go in the group stages, it did leave some questions.
#3 Is it time to give Shaqiri a chance?
Sadio Mane flew off the blocks a few weeks ago. In fact, even Mohamed Salah started well against West Ham and quite a few fans expected him to maybe get better. However, that hasn’t been the case.
Salah’s form is worse than what it was at this point in time last season and that is a worry. Though he eventually ended up scoring quite a few goals, his performance against Napoli was abject shows that might not be the case this time. Salah lacked the first touch of last season and was poor in front of goal, like he has been all season.
Ahead of a big game against Manchester City, Klopp has a decision to make. While you can obviously point out that big players step up on big occasions, Xherdan Shaqiri has done well when given an opportunity and perhaps he needs to start certain games instead of waiting on Salah to regain his touch of last season.
#2 What is the team’s strongest midfield combination?
So far this season, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner seem like the players who are likely to make the team more often than not. Klopp has rotated between Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita and the recent game time seen by Fabinho means he could become a more serious option in the coming weeks.
While it’s good to have the numbers in midfield, something the Reds didn’t have the luxury of boasting last season, the problem of who plays where is becoming more evident.
Gini Wijnaldum has often played in a deeper role but was given the licence to attack last night as Jordan Henderson sat deep. However, neither could really impress against the quality side Napoli are. Keita is perhaps the right option to play slightly higher up the pitch, but he hasn’t started too many games as Klopp slowly tries to integrate him into the setup.
James Milner’s work rate is a necessity as the ball recovery in this system is absolutely key. The fans believe Fabinho will solve a lot of the problems with his ability to defend in midfield and quality on the ball to orchestrate a release pass, but the wait goes on.
#1 Can the substitutions happen quicker?
Another thing I noticed on the social media is a lot of the fans are unhappy with Klopp’s substitutions. We don’t get to see the German take of Mo Salah or Sadio Mane with, say, 30 or 25 minutes left to play even when the team is leading.
Daniel Sturridge was introduced last night for Mane but he came on with less than a minute of game time left. He didn’t really have enough time at Stamford Bridge either, but his stunner saved Liverpool nevertheless.
It’s about time the German manager gives more time to the substitutes to make an impact and not a handful of minutes. I mean, it seems he is trying to run the clock down more than anything else!