04 October 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 0-1 Napoli

Previous Match Infographics: Chelsea (a), Southampton (h), Leicester (a), Brighton (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Ham (h)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

So, yeah, none of us want to relive that.

That's about as bad as it's gotten since Klopp became manager. There have been worse results. There have been worse performances, at least in Klopp's first season. But this was about as bad as it gets, especially considering how the side's evolved since 2015-16 and especially since the front three has become that front three.

Yesterday’s match at Napoli saw the fewest Liverpool shots since Klopp became manager. The lowest Expected Goals total since Klopp became manager. The only time we haven't seen either a shot on-target or even a shot from inside the box since Klopp became manager.

And Liverpool still nearly came away with a point if not for a last-second goal, Mertens pulling van Dijk out wide, Callejon getting behind Robertson, and Gomez not quite quick enough to stay with Insigne. The defense finally, truly lost its shape without being able to recover. Alisson had saved a clear-cut chance just minutes before, two fingertips pushing Mertens’ shot onto the crossbar. He couldn’t save Liverpool a second time.

So that sucked. A bunch. So this is gonna be short.

There's more than enough blame to go around. The worst performance from a front three that's been struggling surprisingly often this season. A lack of rotation in between the autumn international breaks potentially catching up to the side. That Napoli is a difficult place to travel to, that Ancelotti's a difficult manager to face in Europe, that Liverpool might have been already thinking about Sunday's match against Manchester City.

Lots went wrong, and a lot of it we can hope is a one-off.

I'm gonna briefly focus on the midfield.

Yikes. 17 passes from Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum and Keïta to Firmino, Salah, and Mané. Just one into the penalty box. Just five into the final third. No chances created.

Compare that to recent away matches at Chelsea and Tottenham. Liverpool’s midfielders – Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner, and Keïta – completed 33 passes to the attackers – Firmino, Salah, Mane, and Shaqiri. Multiple came in both the penalty box and final third, and Milner created a clear-cut chance for Firmino. Similar goes for the Spurs game, with 28 passes from Liverpool’s midfielders to Liverpool’s attackers, and both Milner and Wijnaldum created chances for Mané.

I know these aren’t dramatically large margins. And we knew that Liverpool’s midfielders weren’t the most creative going into both the season and match. Milner had 11 assists last season, but the majority came from set plays; the other midfielders with the most assists last season were Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coutinho, and Emre Can and, well.

Yesterday might have gone differently had Keïta not gone off in the 19th minute with a freaky frightening back injury, the midfielder most likely to break through Napoli lines. Regardless, this highlights a potential problem, especially when the front three aren’t doing all those wonderful front three things.

The first half was helter skelter, with both sides looking for long balls with the center of the pitch compact as all get out. The second half saw Napoli increasingly turn the screws, both as Liverpool tired and as substitutions – Verdi for Fabian, increasing the doubled-up pressure on Alexander-Arnold, and Mertens for Milik, a far more mobile player able to create space for Insigne – improved the home side.

Liverpool again defended well, but that’s about all Liverpool did well as the front three and midfield increasingly flailed and failed, and all that Napoli pressure finally bore fruit. At about the worst possible time.

Liverpool are now winless in three. The League Cup loss to Chelsea still only matters because I’m mad that Liverpool conceded a lead late on. The league draw at Chelsea still feels like a point gained rather than two lost. But this loss, coming to a late goal, exacerbates the problems and the fears from the previous two results even more.

Chickens haven’t quite come home to roost, but they’re circling the coop.

City on Sunday.

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