As Liverpool’s players trudged off the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona pitch following a chastening 4-0 defeat to Napoli, you sensed that the usually swashbuckling Reds had reached something of a crossroads.
Even Jurgen Klopp himself was quick to reveal that he was struggling to find a solution to the Reds’ malaise, while suggesting that the side will have to reinvest itself following an indifferent start to the season.
Currently, even those of you with access to the best Stake bet bonus codes would find it hard to back Liverpool to win any major honours this season. But what exactly has changed at Anfield this season?
#1. A Subtle Change in Shape
There have been some noticeable positional changes in Liverpool’s shape this season, particularly when in possession.
The most obvious is Trent Alexander-Arnold, with the talented ball-playing right back operating in a much narrower position and almost tucking in as a right-sided central midfielder.
While this seems to be a response to Mohamed Salah adopting a much wider position since the introduction of new striker Darwin Nunez, it’s leaving Liverpool vulnerable to the counter-attack, with players like Marcus Rashford and Wilfried Zaha having exploited the space behind the right-side of the Reds’ defence.
This has also left Joe Gomez looking increasingly vulnerable, while the usually unflappable Virgil Van Dijk has struggled to hold back the tide at times.
#2. A Lack of Effective Pressing
Previous Klopp sides have been characterised by aggressive and highly efficient pressing, which saw the team become incredibly compact when out of possession and in transition.
This was led by the forward line, however, with the now-departed Sadio Mane having led the press with intuitive movement and high energy. Mane was the most effective pressing weapon in attack, completing an impressive 30 presses per match on average and more than any other Liverpool player.
While his replacement Luis Diaz is an outstanding performer and dribbler, he lacks the experience or football intelligence to press as effectively as Mane.
He also plays naturally wider, making it harder for the Reds’ forward line to swap positions and close the space when they lose the ball. This is leaving Liverpool more open to counters and much easier to play through.
#3. A Slow and Ageing Midfield
Previous Klopp sides were also packed full of running in midfield, but it’s fair to say that the side has evolved in more recent times to incorporate slower but more technical players in Fabinho and Tiago.
However, the failure to consistently recruit at a high level in this position (coupled with constant injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Kieta) has left Liverpool with a slow, ageing and under-staffed midfield, to the extent that 37-year-old James Milner started in Naples.
Certainly, Milner looked off the pace in Italy, while Harvey Elliott is not the most defensively aware midfielder despite his obvious technical qualities on the ball.
As a result, the Reds are struggling to control games in the middle of the park, while they’re also being regularly outrun by their rivals and exposed defensively.