Liverpool came close to being crowned kings of Europe for a seventh time last season but Jurgen Klopp is looking for a reboot after his side were savagely swept aside by Napoli on Wednesday.
The Reds’ early-season troubles showed no sign of going away at the Stadio Maradona, the 4-1 scoreline flattering them and leaving their coach wondering what he can do to pull his team out of a deepening slump.
“I need time to say the right things because at the moment it’s not 100 percent clear,” Klopp told reporters.
Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti said he didn’t want to hear talk of his side dishing out a football lesson but there was only one team on the pitch until the hosts decided that they had dished out enough punishment.
It is telling that Spalletti brought off Khvicha Kvaratskhelia with over an hour to go, conserving the Georgian revelation for Napoli’s weekend visit of Spezia and their trip to Rangers next week.
By that time Napoli had long since won the match and were happy to shut up shop knowing that Liverpool were incapable of hauling back a four-goal deficit which could have easily been double that.
“The problems we had tonight were obvious. Number one, Napoli played a really good game and we played a really bad game. We just didn’t play well enough, we were never compact,” Klopp added.
“For 60 minutes we had a lot of situations where we lost a lot of balls because we were too far away from everything.”
Having 36-year-old James Milner and teenager Harvey Elliott in midfield didn’t offer better results than when Liverpool were beaten at Old Trafford two weeks ago, with Piotr Zielinski and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa in complete control of the play.
Injuries to Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita, Ibrahima Konate, Joel Matip and Diogo Jota have had an impact but even their most reliable old heads are letting them down.
Mohamed Salah was off the pace and Virgil van Dijk and Alisson committed basic errors which allowed Napoli to burst through their defences almost unhindered.
Simple balls over the top of Liverpool’s high defensive line created a host of opportunities for Napoli’s dynamic forwards who were able to pinch possession from the Reds in highly dangerous areas.
Kvaratskhelia would have had the goal his stellar performance deserved had Van Dijk not scrambled back to clear his shot off the line after Victor Osimhen had mugged Joe Gomez in Liverpool’s defensive third.
“If you’re not playing really well you should be able to defend on a high level,” added Klopp.
“Napoli was really good but we made it really easy for them.”
Klopp said that Liverpool’s owners expect him, rather than another coach, to resolve the problems afflicting his team on the day his friend Thomas Tuchel was sacked by Chelsea.
And with Ajax at Anfield and a trip to Chelsea coming up before the international break he will need to find solutions quickly.
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