When Liverpool were thrashed 7-2 by Aston Villa in October 2020, the match was largely dismissed as a one-off occurrence during which the defending champions were undone by a catastrophic defensive performance.
However, some of the Reds’ recent displays have produced echoes of the team’s performance in the Midlands nearly two years ago, particularly the recent 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Napoli in their opening UCL group stage match of the season.
This also appears part of a recurring and systemic issue within the side, and one that Jurgen Klopp seems unsure of how to fix. But can the German survive his seven-year itch and reinvent Liverpool once again?
Addressing the Reds’ Most Pressing Issues
Klopp’s side have had an underwhelming side to their EPL campaign, winning just two of their six league games to date and dropping points to Fulham, Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Merseyside rivals Everton.
What’s more, the Reds were dangerously open and vulnerable to pace in most of these matches, with players like Marcus Rashford, Wilfried Zaha and Anthony Gordon troubling Liverpool’s backline with their constant running.
These recurring issues came to a head in Naples, where Klopp’s team was torn apart during a disastrous first half. At the end of it, they trailed 3-0 and were lucky not to be further behind, while things barely got any better in the second half as the side struggled to contain Napoli’s pacy breaks.
Here, all of the Reds’ issues were laid bare. Firstly, their trademark high defensive line was constantly exposed to swift passing and aggressive counter-pressing, with the forwards and midfielders unable to compress when out of possession and press the ball with any efficiency or aggression.
This left them open and easy to play through, particularly with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez constantly out of position on the right-hand side of the defence. Both players also struggled to run back and keep their composure under pressure, while the under-par Virgil Van Dijk was unable to stem the tide.
While Luis Diaz was an energetic and constant threat in attack, it’s also clear that he’s struggling to fill the void left by Sadio Mane from a pressing perspective. He also has a noticeably wide starting position, making it hard for Liverpool to become compact when in transition and stop the opposition from playing through them.
Can Klopp Reverse Liverpool’s Fortunes?
Klopp has seen both previous managerial tenures at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund end after around seven years, leading some to speculate that he could face a similar fate at Anfield.
He also cut a despondent and frustrated figure after the game in Naples, claiming that he would “have to think” about his side’s issues and suggesting that Liverpool “must reinvent themselves” after being humbled.
This suggests that a tactical evolution may be in the offing, especially as Klopp looks to accommodate the natural width of Diaz and an out-and-out number nine in the form of the expensive Darwin Nunez.
Klopp also has to attend with his midfield, with Harvey Elliott talented but lacking in defensive resilience and the 37-year-old James Milner looking increasingly vulnerable in high quality and high intensity matches.
This represents a huge task, and one that may require the German to adjust his high defensive line (or at least amend his defensive shape) in the near-term.
The Bottom Line
Liverpool are now seeing their odds to win the EPL lengthen by the day, although this at least offers an opportunity to fans with a Stake bonus code and belief that their side will eventually come good.
There are clearly issues to address for the side to achieve a successful season, however, and the question that remains is whether Klopp is the man to resolve these.
He certainly looked unusually forlorn and out of ideas in the aftermath of the Napoli clash, and he’ll have to prove that he’s up to the task of reinventing his side after years of continued success.