Football Features

Three observations as Liverpool are mauled at Murrayfield by Napoli in pre-season defeat

By Ben Green

Published: 19:28, 28 July 2019

In a pulsating pre-season friendly hosted at the Murrayfield Stadium Liverpool were blown away 3-0 by Napoli. 

It wasn’t quite the rugby score the venue is accustomed to, with the Edinburgh arena being home to the Scottish Rugby Union, but it perhaps could have been as Carlo Ancelotti’s side ran amok for the majority of the match.

In the first half Dries Mertens and Arkadiusz Milik gave the Parthenopeans a deserved 2-0 lead, before Amin Younes completed the scoring after the restart to provide Jurgen Klopp plenty to ponder.

And so, after an exhilarating match in Scotland, what observations can we take away?

1. This is not “the Divock Origi the whole world wanted”

Prior to this encounter Klopp had waxed lyrical about Divock Origi’s recent form, praising the 24-year-old for putting his previous injury problems behind him – notably the injury suffered from Ramiro Funes Mori’s poor challenge in 2016 – and coming of age in the esteemed jersey of Liverpool’s iconic red strip.

The German branded Origi’s second-half-of-the-season heroics as him being like a “new signing” and even described him as “the Divock Origi the whole world wanted”, culminating in a new long-term contract. In other words, Liverpool fans will now be expecting the Belgian to demonstrate the kind of performances reminiscent of his Barcelona brace if Klopp’s rousing endorsement is anything to go by.

Unfortunately this afternoon it was more early 2018/19 Origi, rather than this new phenom who came alive towards the end of the campaign, with the Ostend-born forward looking a shadow of the player who terrorised Barca’s backline only two months ago.

It was an underwhelming performance from the majority of Liverpool in fairness to Origi, who didn’t really have the requisite support to truly test the Napoli defence, with both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum struggling out wide.

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2. Dynamism best utilised in the middle

Part of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s early success at Anfield was down to Klopp’s innate decision to modify the habitual wide-man into a dynamic box-to-box midfielder, and the result: a transformed midfield peppered with drive and tenacity.

Oxlade-Chamberlain had reinvented himself from a fairly inconsistent winger at Arsenal, to standout central midfielder on Merseyside, and that is exactly where he should stay, not back out wide as Klopp deployed him today.

The horrific knee injury he suffered in April of last year has, of course, hampered his progress in a Liverpool shirt, but he’s back now and trying to re-establish his previous form, though if this match in Edinburgh has taught us anything, it’s that Oxlade-Chamberlain’s potential is wasted on the byline.

The England international struggled to fully stamp his mark on the match, looking jaded and, at times, spent on the touchline, with the Napoli full-backs not enduring the type of ominous task most defenders are used to against Liverpool’s usually insatiable flanks.

3. Right flank heavily exposed

This game was largely dictated by Lorenzo Insigne’s natural ability to consistently find ample room to wreak havoc and purposefully penetrate, with most of his luck coming down the right byline as Trent Alexander-Arnold had a difficult time trying to impose his defensive authority on proceedings.

Whether that was down to a hangover from the sensational roller-coaster ride he enjoyed last term, or whether there was a slight element of complacency creeping into his mind, with the young right-back now knowing there is no competition for his berth.

Nathaniel Clyne recently suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear and will be sidelined for an extended period of time, leaving Alexander-Arnold to cement a starting position in the safety that he can afford to slip up as no-one is waiting in the wings to displace him.

Look, Alexander-Arnold is without question Liverpool’s first choice right-back, and let’s face it, this was just a pre-season, but perhaps there is a wider issue here concerning adequate back-up should any of Klopp’s star players suffer injury.

He has already suggested Liverpool cannot afford to play ‘fantasy football‘, with the German aiming a chequebook managerial dig at the likes of Pep Guardiola, but it seems that cover may actually have to be brought in for both flanks – with Alberto Moreno also leaving – unless he feels the likes of Adam Lewis and Yasser Larouci are ready to step up.