‘It was the worst game we played’: Liverpool plot a way back after their lowest low



But for him, defending is a collective enterprise. Liverpool made it simple for Napoli to play against them. Their midfield was stretched and ragged. There was no gegenpressing – the coaching philosophy synonymous with German coaches of a team immediately attempting to win back possession rather than regrouping into formation. He was bemused to be asked if the postponement of Liverpool’s Saturday match against Wolves came at a cost to their rhythm. “We had no rhythm,” he replied. “Did you watch our game against Napoli?” His own verdict was that eight of the starting 11 were poor, three merely average. That trio probably included Alisson and Luis Diaz, perhaps joined by Andy Robertson or Harvey Elliott, whose status as the youngest may mean he is blamed the least.

Inside the dressing room, they found fault with themselves. Klopp famously described his style of play as “heavy-metal football.” Joel Matip’s version of that was to say there were “a lot of heavy faces” last week. “Everyone was really critical of himself,” added the centre back, who was parachuted in at half-time when they were already 3-0 down.

Liverpool, his manager said, were not playing the blame game. “There was no pointing at each other.” But there have been meetings, collectively and individually. Klopp has been proactive. “I have to do something I can’t sit there and wait for how we react,” he said.

He specialises in trying to turn a negative into a positive. A nadir may have tested that capacity. “Is this the situation I wanted? No,” he said. “But now you are in it you find it interesting and challenging. A lot of good things happen in the past and this team showed an incredible kind of consistency over a long period and I know how this business works. I didn’t read a word – maybe 10 words altogether – what was said about us but most of the things were fair, probably. I watched the game back plenty of times and I would have asked a lot of questions about the people and the manager and the specific players. It is absolutely okay.”

Now the aim is to ensure Napoli remains the low, that whatever comes against Ajax on Tuesday and in the future is an improvement. Liverpool have no complaints about the criticism, whether from outsiders or insiders. “Sometimes it hurts and this is normal but in a good team, which I think we are, you can speak about these truths,” Matip said. “You don’t like to hear them in the first moment sometimes but everybody knows something has to happen.” And that something cannot be a sequel to Klopp’s horror film.

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