Carlo Ancelotti must take some blame for Napoli's defeat to Liverpoolby Chloe Beresford / 12 December 2018, 14:43Tweet
There was no shame for Napoli in losing to a Liverpool side who have risen to the top of the Premier League by the time they faced them in European competition on Tuesday evening.
While Carlo Ancelotti is just starting his task as the man in charge of the Partenopei, Jurgen Klopp has Liverpool on top form, and playing to their potential.
What was disappointing however, was that the visitors – who needed just a point from the match to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages – did not demonstrate just how good they themselves can be, and in truth put in a lacklustre performance.
The home side played exactly how Ancelotti should have expected them to at Anfield; positive, attacking and pressing high up the pitch.
Serie A fans are no stranger to the excellent performances of goalkeeper Alisson either, his superb save on Arkadiusz Milik in the latter stages of the game just a continuation of his excellent form at AS Roma.
This was supposed to be an extremely tight fixture, one which saw two positive sides go toe-to-toe for a place in the last 16, yet aside from the aforementioned chance for Milik, Napoli barely threatened the Liverpool goal.
Ancelotti also knew that finding the net even once would’ve made things extremely difficult for the Reds, as they would’ve needed to win by two clear goals if Napoli managed to clinch an away goal during the 90 minutes.
Yet his team selection severely hindered any chance of doing so, and it was in the middle of the park that this was most glaringly obvious.
Captain Marek Hamsik is not the player he used to be, and naming him as part of a two-man midfield in a 4-4-2 formation versus the hard-working trio in Liverpool’s 4-3-3 was always going to see them overrun.
Jordan Henderson and James Milner were particularly effective in their roles, however Hamsik’s uncharacteristically wayward passing (77% accuracy from 74 attempts) left midfield partner Allan with far too much work to do.
The latter made no less than 11 tackles on the night, perfectly illustrating how many times he was forced to win the ball back following an error from his partner and exactly how overworked he was.
Ancelotti should have also realised that Mario Rui was never going to keep up with the pace and skill of Mohamed Salah, and indeed it was the left-back who made the mistake that led to Liverpool’s goal.
While the vastly more capable Faouzi Ghoulam is just returning from a long injury layoff, he did play 90 minutes in the league at the weekend.
Surely it would have been better to give the Algerian a run-out for the last half an hour versus Frosinone in order that he be able to start from the beginning in such a crucial Champions League clash?
Napoli were also showing no signs of threatening the goal with Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens – both under 5’5” tall – up against two central defenders that are both over 6’3”.
It’s not unfair to say that Ancelotti should have foreseen these struggles before the match began, and the boss certainly took too long to introduce the taller alternative in Milik as a substitute. The
Italian side looked much better after his introduction, especially when the Poland international produced the aforementioned fine save from Alisson, however who knows what could have happened should he have been introduced earlier or even from the start.
“We have to accept it, even if this is very disappointing, as we did everything we could,” Ancelotti confessed to Sky Italia after the match.
“Over the six games, we perhaps did more than anyone expected and came very close to qualification, so there are no regrets.”
Having been unbeaten up until that last match at Anfield, you’d have to say that the Coach is correct on the whole, but in the back of his mind he must have the feeling that he himself could have done a little more to at least provide a sterner test for Klopp’s Liverpool.
When your goalkeeper saves you in the last minute ❤️ pic.twitter.com/LS7ghs4FTd— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 12, 2018