Liverpool made a shocking start to their Champions League campaign with a 4-1 loss to Napoli

GRAEME SOUNESS: Liverpool are miles away from where they should be right now

GRAEME SOUNESS: Forget analysts and buzzwords – the first rule of football is to make sure you’re first to the ball – and Liverpool are miles away from where they should be right now

  • Liverpool were beaten 4-1 by Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday
  • Jurgen Klopp’s side have also had a poor start to the Premier League season
  • Their chaotic Napoli defense was heavily criticized by fans and pundits

You can talk to all the modern coaches and analysts you like, apply the latest buzzwords, and fill those sports pages with all the data you can get your hands on – but the only non-negotiable part of winning football matches is to be the first to the Ball.

At the moment, Liverpool do not. And that’s why they are a mile away from the team we knew during Jurgen Klopp’s time at the club.

This intensity of being first to everything is why they have become winners again. They and Manchester City are by far the two best teams in the country to do this and nobody else comes close to their intensity. They can drain the lives of teams.

Liverpool made a shocking start to their Champions League campaign with a 4-1 loss to Napoli

But they went from being a team that could hustle and wear down an opponent, from the first minute to the last, to suddenly second behind everything. By doing so, they seem to be vulnerable to all attacks.

There are all sorts of reasons why this is being offered by the people with the data and the big theories. They will tell you about the Liverpool high line. About Mo Salah not looking like the same player he was. About Trent Alexander-Arnold appeared to go back when two of Napoli’s goals went in, in that 4-1 loss on Wednesday night. But Liverpool just don’t seem to have the same energy.

I certainly haven’t seen the same Salah. He signed the big contract he wanted and I really hope we don’t see him half-sleeping in his chair because of it.

The need for intensity is a collective thing. It has always been so, since my time as a player at the club. They like to call it ‘press’ now but when I was playing it was called ‘close’. If one person doesn’t, the whole system breaks down and you might as well give up and be a team playing counter-attacking football.

Jurgen Klopp's side have taken just nine points from a possible 18 in the Premier League so far

Jurgen Klopp’s side have taken just nine points from a possible 18 in the Premier League so far

No one is above the team. No one is above ab******ing. I was speaking recently of the afternoon at Coventry in 1983, where we were down 3-0 at half-time. It was just before halftime when I let my mate Kenny Dalglish have it. I asked him, “Is there a dreadful danger of you taking the ball and starting?” His response comes right back to me. ‘Is there a dreadful danger of you winning a tackle?’

We continued this conversation in the locker room at half-time and with each sentence we got closer and closer, to the point that we finally had to go our separate ways. Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran calmly poured each other a cup of tea and stood aside. We made their team speak for them.

The point I’m trying to make is that you can’t put Wednesday night, or Liverpool’s average start to the season, on individuals. In the team I was part of, we worked together, we searched for the ball together and we won it together.

Liverpool will look to recover from Napoli beating when they host Ajax on Tuesday

Liverpool will look to recover from Napoli beating when they host Ajax on Tuesday

I am certainly of the opinion that Liverpool need another experienced and seasoned midfielder at the heart of their team, to pick up the pass and capitalize on forward movement.

Klopp said he doesn’t need the big-name addition this summer. He listed the young players he thinks can step up and do a job for him. It’s good to hear he has faith in guys like Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones.

This is great news for every young Liverpool player. But it’s a tough, unforgiving environment we’re talking about. It’s a big leap from midfielders like Thiago, who is 31, Jordan Henderson, 32, and James Milner, 36, to these youngsters.

There is no doubting the quality of Liverpool’s newest Arthur Melo, but will he be able to cope with the intensity of the English game, given that Liverpool play cup final intensity games every weekend? end and everyone still has to be there?

Klopp has trusted 19-year-old midfielder Harvey Elliott since Thiago Alcantara injury

Klopp has trusted 19-year-old midfielder Harvey Elliott since Thiago Alcantara injury

I think there’s room in this midfield for another high-intensity workhorse who can also deliver a pretty pass. Go back to Liverpool’s best midfielder three or four years ago. You had Gini Wijnaldum. Workaholic. James Milner. Workaholic. Jordan Henderson. Workaholic. Not the most gifted in terms of cute passes but hard workers, all of them. The creativity came from the full-backs and forwards.

There is no need for panic and instinctive reactions, of course. As I said in these pages two weeks ago, all players are different when it comes to how long it takes them to get up to speed at the start of the season.

But I don’t see the Liverpool I know because the team doesn’t get to that ball first. Why is this so? This is a question for the players and I have no doubt that Klopp will ask it, unequivocally.

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GRAEME SOUNESS: Liverpool are miles away from where they should be right now

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