Liverpool is broken

Liverpool’s 2022–23 Premier League season started poorly. Through six games, the Pool Boys have had three draws – including 0-0 against cross-city rival Everton – and one loss, against despair before Manchester United. The team also needed a significant amount of injury time to beat Newcastle 2-1 at home. The only purely bright spot was the 9-0 loss from newly promoted Bournemouth, in a game that at the time felt like a reset but now feels fleeting.

At the very least, Liverpool can find relief from their clean Champions League record. While their Premier League title hopes may have already taken off, given how thin the margins are when Manchester City roam, the Reds can simply focus on finishing in a respected domestic position with an eye on the glamorous competition.

The Champions League group stage kicks off when Liverpool travel to Napoli on Wednesday, a tough match but the England side could win if they shake off their slack at the start of the season. Let’s see what happened:

Your Majesty.

Oh no.

Well, what the hell is this?

Yikes.

After just 47 minutes, Napoli scored four goals against the bleak Liverpool. Honestly, Napoli should have scored more. Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was caught early by a through ball to Victor Osimhen, only for the Nigerian to blow it up wide. Just a few minutes later, Napoli got another penalty kick, and Osimhen again failed to score. It was a nightmarish outcome that actually reduced my nightmarish performance.

What exactly went wrong with Liverpool? In a sense, the same things that went wrong all season. Let’s start with defense, as one must when the team in question conceded four goals in 47 minutes. Thanks to a long-term injury to Ibrahima Konate and a short-term injury to Joel Matip, Joe Gomez has been called up as Virgil van Dijk’s defensive partner. If you’ve seen the succession of goals above already, you know things didn’t go well. Gomez was directly wrong on Napoli’s second and third goals, allowing Andre-Frank Zambo Anguesa to run on him for the first and Kvaratskhelia to rule him in the last goal. Matip came in in the first half, but obviously wasn’t quite fit, and the match was also wrapped up anyway.

The other issue has come up more and more this season: Trent Alexander-Arnold is riding in defense now. The 23-year-old remains one of Liverpool’s best players in attack, but with Gomes by his side rather than Matip or Konate, his defensive shortcomings are more evident. Before Gomez fell victim to the third for Napoli, Alexander-Arnold let Kvaratskhelia run alongside him, adding to the pressure on his central defence. With number 66 on the right, Liverpool know what to get from him in defense – not much – and that hurt the club on Wednesday.

Furthermore, the midfield depth issues that have plagued Liverpool throughout the season have made themselves known once again. James Milner is one of Liverpool’s beloved veterans, but he’s also nearly 73 years old and no longer the type of player a club should rely on in Liverpool’s position. He started on Wednesday and quickly ceded his first penalty on handball, then picked up a yellow card in the 10th minute. He was substituted in the 63rd minute for Thiago, who had just come back from injury himself.

Perhaps the most worrying attack for Liverpool is the attack. Luis Diaz is spared most of the criticism, as he has been Liverpool’s best striker this season, and perhaps the best player of the period. On Wednesday, he scored a powerful kick in the 49th minute, after curling a curling shot past Napoli goalkeeper Alex Merritt.

Diaz also received a rocket header from a cross from Alexander-Arnold that unfortunately went straight to Merritt. If there’s one Liverpool player who can hold his head high right now, it’s the Colombian.

On the other side of the attack, Mohamed Salah was bad. Not “bad by Salah’s standards”, but just bad. with Sadio Mane’s departure this summer, the offense must pass through Salah at all times, and the Egyptian was not spared. He didn’t find as much space on the wing as he did in past seasons, and his shot didn’t hit as usual. Remember that 9-0 win over Bournemouth? In a way, Liverpool did it as Salah did not contribute goals or assists.

For the season, Salah scored two goals and two assists – strong stats that hide subpar performance. His only good match came against Newcastle. If this kind of stagnation continues, Liverpool will continue to suffer, even if their defensive and depth issues are magically resolved in the near future. It would also be useful if the new signature Darwin Nunez settled in faster From what he has, though, the number of his shots is healthy; He’s averaged 7.71 shots per 90 minutes in the Premier League, numbers that should ultimately lead to goals.

There are other issues at play as well. Van Dijk hasn’t been world-beating and saving so far, and injuries to Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino have put more pressure on Salah than the club likely expected. However, this does not seem like a weak extension of the figure and more like a sign of the end of an era and the beginning of another, more ambiguous one.

This does not mean that Liverpool is finished with a top club, or that Jurgen Klopp has lost his touch. What’s more, Liverpool have been one thing for a long time, and at such a high level, there is bound to be a period of adjustment with players who are behind from that previous era and being replaced. There’s not much the club can do to reinvent itself now either. Problems will be addressed in time, whether it’s with new players merging better or old props coming back to health again.

Perhaps some of that difficulty could have been avoided if Thiago had stayed healthy, or if Gomez hadn’t had to play so many important minutes. Or maybe Liverpool are just a very good team that can no longer say they are at the top of European football. Napoli didn’t need to reveal that to the world the way they did on Wednesday. Liverpool have explained it all on their own this season.