By the skin of their teeth.
There is no doubt that Liverpool DESERVED to go through last night but we all know that’s not how the Champions League works. All in all, they got lucky.
If José Callejón had capitalised on Andy Robertson’s missed clearance at the back post I may be sat here writing a different type of article; but then again if Van Dijk had not tried an Eduardo da Silva-esque volley and Sadio Mané could actually hit the target we could have been looking at a 4/5 nil win for the reds. Ifs and buts.
Looking back at Liverpool’s Champions League campaign, it’s a miracle that they even managed to get through the group stage. A disastrous 2-0 loss to a team name I can’t say nevermind spell (Crzena Zvedva) followed by a defeat in Paris left The Reds needing to pull something out of the bag if they were to continue their continental crusade.
Yet, here we are. They are through. I am beginning to lose count how many times the Anfield crowd have driven Liverpool to victory. Against Manchester City last season, then against Paris St. Germain on Matchday One and now Napoli, Anfield is well and truly a fortress. Liverpool last lost at home in APRIL 2017 and Trent Alexander-Arnold heaped on the praise in an interview with Liverpoolfc.com.
“When we walk out here, we feel like nobody is going to come and beat us. We feel really confident when we step out on to the pitch.”
Liverpool have been far from their best so far but at least their ‘one season wonder’ Mohamed Salah and the ‘overrated’ Virgil van Dijk can drag them through what ended up being a rather tricky group. Although the eyes are mainly focused on van Dijk in a solid defensive display against Gli Azzurri, Joël Matip deserves at least half the credit…
Still, it was not a promising group stage. Here are a few things I have picked out from Liverpool’s underwhelming start to the Champions League.
Alexander-Arnold’s lack of positional awareness is at some point going to cost them severely. There were a couple of times last night where the twenty-year-old got caught out trying to anticipate the long ball, most frequently played by the whimsical Marek Hamšík, an excellent disguiser of a through pass, and if it was Neymar or god-forbid Kylian Mbappé in behind TAA rather than a lacklustre Dries Mertens/Lorenzo Insigne, Liverpool would’ve been on their knees.
We have seen this multiple times from the incredibly gifted youngster. Of course something like positioning comes from experience but if Liverpool are to have the domestic and continental success they so desire, Klopp needs to ensure a dramatical improvement in that area.
Take Your Chances
I’ll start this off with an image:
Jesus, this is bad. It’s beginning to become a trend in Liverpool’s season. Missed chances may not count for much when you are playing Fulham at home (no offence Fulham, big fan of Mitro) but the amount of clear-cut chances they squander, especially Mané and surprisingly Salah, is going to catch up with them eventually. They got away with it again against Napoli, just, but you can see it is becoming a real issue that you’ve got to hope they can fix.
Alisson is Worth Every Penny
Brilliant save. You can ‘um’ and ‘ah’ all you like over whether Arkadiusz Milik should’ve tried somewhere other than straight at the Brazilian shot-stopper but the speed at which Alisson rushed off his line quite clearly catches the Polish striker, who had four goals in his last five games, off guard. A superb stop to cap off a solid performance between the sticks.
It’s not just this game that Alisson showed his worth. His distribution, perhaps only bettered by Brazilian compatriot Ederson, who we can all agree might as well play in front of City’s back four, gives Liverpool a safe option at the back and an easy way to retain possession, a stark contrast to previous keepers (Sorry Loris).
Liverpool have everything in place for a stellar 2018/19 season but they MUST improve, especially in the Champions League.