Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool need to ‘reinvent’ themselves after a 4-1 humbling at the hands of Napoli and changes will be needed when in-form Ajax come to Merseyside.
The Champions League group stage beating represented a nadir of sorts for the Reds after a below-par start to the season in which their quadruple-chasing exploits of 2021/22 have been consigned to the history books.
Klopp’s side appear to be far from the team that battled on all four fronts last time out, with every issue laid bare for all to see at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Only goalkeeper Alisson Becker and winger Luis Diaz emerged with any credit from a match where the score easily could have been worse, with a light shined on issues in defence, midfield and up front.
Fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson again underperformed like they have for much of the season, and the issue was worsened by well below-par showings from Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, the latter of which was withdrawn at half-time.
They didn’t get much help from midfield either, with 36-year-old James Milner struggling to keep up with the pace of the game, and 19-year-old Harvey Elliott not faring any better despite a strong season so far from the youngster.
Up top Mohamed Salah again looked far from the player that has been setting the standards in the Premier League for the past five seasons, with Roberto Firmino’s decline only showing occasional glimpses that it may be slowing down.
After the defeat, a surprised Klopp said: “It looks like we have to reinvent ourselves, there are a lot of things lacking.
“The fun part is we have to do that in the middle of a Premier League and Champions League season.
“In three days we play against Wolves, when they saw the game tonight they couldn’t stop laughing, probably.”
Instead it will be Ajax who are laughing, coming off a 100 per cent start to the season which has seen them score 25 goals and conceded just three.
“You don’t think a lot after the game, you react more,” Klopp added. “We have to kind of reinvent ourselves because basic things were not there. It’s a difficult period, no doubt about that.
“If you’re not playing exceptionally well, you still can defend on a really high level. We should be able to do that.
“The start of the game doesn’t help. If we want to defend better and concede a penalty after three minutes and the next one, obviously you cannot exactly do that. Tonight we were caught in-between.
“But, still, it’s the job to do. That’s what I mean. It’s not that we have to reinvent a new kind of football. You always try to improve but at this moment obviously everybody would be happy if we could just play similar stuff to what we used to play.”
The German coach has been a 4-3-3 absolutist for much of his career at Liverpool, but when tweaks have been made, he’s often used a 4-2-3-1 to change the team’s balance.
Thankfully for Klopp and fans of his team, a season start that has been dogged by injury will now ease with Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota coming back into the fold.
That gives the option to reset midfield, unclog a blocked up attack and add solidity to a defence that’s severely lacking.
Klopp may now be able to free Salah and Alexander-Arnold from occupying the same spot on the right hand side of the opposition penalty box, and offer a more fluid, possession based midfield.
The signing of Arthur Melo on loan from Juventus brings a player who can win and keep the ball, which will be vital to stop Ajax’s energy-packed midfield having a riot.
And in defence, a solution will be required to stop former Tottenham man Steven Bergwijn who already has eight goals this season and could be Alexander-Arnold’s toughest task yet.
How could that look you may be asking? Well here’s a sample of how Klopp can reinvent the Reds using tricks from the past and returning personnel.
How Klopp’s ‘reinvented’ Liverpool could look against Ajax: