Liverpool’s Champions League campaign once again threatened to come off the rails, as following a 1-0 defeat in Naples, the Reds were turned over 2-0 by Red Star in Belgrade. But what were the key stats from what was an absolutely atrocious performance from the Reds?
Attack Stutters As Reds Come Unstuck
Liverpool toiled and toiled, but simply never looked like scoring once Red Star took the lead. Despite having 23 shots, with 20 of them inside the box, the Reds just never looked like getting going. Of those 23 shots, only four hit the target, with only two of them genuine chances of note – Sturridge blazing over the game’s best chance at 0-0 before Mané had his effort blocked early in the second half.
Mo Salah came closest to changing the tie, hitting the post and also testing Red Star’s keeper on a couple of occasions, but even Mo from his eight shots hit the target just three times, and none of those were genuinely good chances, he just nearly pulled off the spectacular. But for every decent attacking moment, there was an attempted shot direct from a corner straight into the side netting. To register so many shots with such a low accuracy and to create just two big chances indicates that this was really, really desperate stuff, and it showed.
As Si Brundish indicates, both of Liverpool’s big chances came from deflected scuffles in the box, rather than good passing. This was dire stuff.
181 passes in the attacking third without creating a single Big Chance
— SimonBrundish (@SimonBrundish) November 6, 2018
Midfield Woes Continue As Reds’ Form Dips
Liverpool won their opening seven games of the season, scoring 17 goals and conceding just four. In those games, they started Keita, Milner and Wijnaldum on four occasions and Hendo, Gini, Milner twice, with Shaq starting against Southampton at halftime and being subbed to return the game to Hendo, Gini, Milner.
In the nine games since, Klopp has experimented heavily, with the Hendo, Gini, Milner team used just twice and Keita starting just twice, with one of those starts ending in an early injury against Napoli. Klopp has used seven different midfield combinations in those nine games, with seven different players used there, and the only combination that has born fruit is Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum in a two-man midfield, which produced four-goal displays and wins against Cardiff and Red Star at Anfield.
The Reds as a consequence have won just three of those nine games (albeit mostly against difficult opposition), scoring twelve goals (eight of those in the aforementioned two games) and conceding an admittedly still impressive seven goals. It’s clear that something is working, and it begins and ends with the midfield.
Away Day Blues In Europe Continue
Liverpool went 160 minutes away from home this season in the Champions League without registering a shot on target. They’ve now lost both of their two away matches this season, having notched just four shots on target across those two games. Their run of defeats now stretches to four in a row away from Anfield in Europe once the 4-2 defeat to Roma and 3-1 defeat to Madrid are factored in. Whilst it’s conceivable that the Reds can still rely on their impressive home form against Napoli in a few weeks’ time, there’s absolutely no chance of replicating last season’s UCL run if their away form continues to be this dire. The Reds have won just one of their last five away games now, a poor 1-0 win against Huddersfield, and Klopp needs to figure it out and soon.