This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Napoli promise to offer a stern attacking threat but Jurgen Klopp should be confident in his defence and maintain the regular back four who have started the season.
Liverpool boasted the best defensive record in the Premier League last year with 21 clean sheets and for the most part they have maintained their solidity so far this season, though they have conceded in four of their five league matches.
That could partly be due to the loss of Alisson, whose organisation and ability on the ball – he achieved 80% pass accuracy last term – can be just as important as his shot-stopping – Adrian comparatively gifted Southampton a goal by passing straight to Danny Ings.
Having played Napoli twice last season, Klopp will be aware of the main strengths they possess, with pace in attack through Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens, as well as a preference to keep ahold of the ball, as their average of 57% possession from three Serie A games evidences.
As a result, the German could be tempted to go with a more defensive approach by deploying Joe Gomez at right-back ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold, a change he deployed at the Nou Camp last season with disastrous results, as the Reds lost 3-0.
The former Charlton player also featured there in the group stage defeats against Paris Saint-Germain and Red Star Belgrade – a worrying trend, then.
The decision to leave Alexander-Arnold out of that fixture not only unsettled the defence, but stifled Liverpool’s attacking threat on the right flank, which was reflected in the scoreline, and Klopp cannot afford to make a similar mistake against Napoli.
It will be a difficult task for the 20-year-old to come up against Insigne, who has two goals and two assists in three games, and Klopp could fear that his inexperience and lack of awareness could cost his side.
After all, the right-back has been caught out of position in each of his last two games, failing to get back to prevent Kosovo’s second goal against England, before struggling to cover the run of Jetro Willems on Saturday, who then turned him too easily and found the top corner.
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Much of that is due to his hunger to get forward. He made seven key passes against Newcastle and attempted 15 crosses, which showed he spent a lot of time in the opposition’s half, and he can’t afford to do that at the San Paolo.
However, if Klopp instructs him to focus more on the defensive side of his game then he should be more than adequate, as he was last season when Liverpool only conceded once.