Jamie Carragher has admitted he is worried about Liverpool’s future under Jurgen Klopp, describing their performance in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Napoli as “embarrassing” and accusing them of defending like “kids”.
Klopp’s side conceded three goals in a dismal first half and another straight after the break at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium as they opened their Champions League campaign with their joint-heaviest defeat in the competition.
It came after a stuttering start to the Premier League season during which Liverpool have won just two out of six games, leaving them seventh in the table ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Wolves.
“The problem tonight is not that game,” said Carragher during an appearance on CBS. “Forget this game. For me, the big worry is, ‘is this almost something that’s going to carry on through the season?’
“Is this the end of a cycle? Have Liverpool massively got the transfer ideas in the summer wrong? Because this team looks so far off it.”
The Sky Sports the pundit sees signs of a physical drop-off.
“It has been at full pelt for five or six years under Jurgen Klopp,” he added.
“Of the seven games Liverpool have played this season, they have conceded the first goal in five of them. They are not starting games well.
“So, I’m not going to criticize their attitude because what this team has done – certainly in Europe, in the Premier League, the Barcelona game, coming back – the mentality is fantastic.
“Is this a massive drop-off physically because of what has happened over the five or six years, the way they have played, how intense they’ve been?
“Can this team get it back? That’s the worry for me, not tonight. What is going to happen with the future of this team and this season?
“This is still only the fourth game Liverpool have lost in 2022, which shows how consistent they have been, but it’s the performances more than the results, actually, that are worrying me right now.”
‘Lack of intensity costing Liverpool’
Liverpool’s defenders were heavily criticized for their role in the defeat to Napoli, particularly Joe Gomez, who struggled badly before being hooked for Joel Matip at half-time.
But Carragher feels their defensive issues stem from problems in midfield, where a lack of pressure on the ball is allowing opponents to get at them too easily and exploit their high defensive line.
“The interesting thing for me right now is that Liverpool play a high-risk game, but they are not actually pressing the ball to stop the high-risk game and causing themselves a problem,” he said.
“How high your line is is not a problem. It’s about being compact, being together.
“Right now, it’s too easy to get through Liverpool’s midfield. That didn’t happen before. You can play the high line and be really compact. But if that’s not happening, you have to adapt.”
Carragher’s analysis is backed up by the statistics.
This season, they are allowing considerably more opposition fast breaks than in any of the last 12 Premier League campaigns, underlining the space their opponents are now finding against them.
There is also a clear reduction in defensive solidity from last season, with Liverpool far more vulnerable in their own half and, particularly, inside their box.
They have not been helped by injuries in midfield, with Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffering fitness problems and loan signing Arthur only arriving from Juventus on Deadline Day.
But Carragher feels things could go from bad to worse if Liverpool do not find a solution to their issues in that area of the pitch and improve their “embarrassing” defensive performances.
“It’s embarrassing. It really is,” Carragher added of Liverpool’s defending.
“I said before, it’s kid stuff and this is the big problem with Liverpool right now. They’ve built their success on intensity on the ball, which means the opposition can’t get the head up to put the ball over.
“So your team’s always tight. Always really compact. At times that’s a risk, but you get an energy on the ball. That energy is not there now, so the back four has to adapt and it has to go back three or four yards .
“That’s all we’re talking about. But if they keep playing like that they’re going to have a big problem in terms of the Premier League this season and qualifying for the next round of the Champions League.”
Carra’s Napoli verdict in tweets
Liverpool’s remaining Champions League fixtures
September 13: Ajax (H) – kick-off 8pm
October 4: Rangers (H) – kick-off 8pm
October 12: Rangers (A) – kick-off 8pm
October 26: Ajax (A) – kick-off 8pm
November 1: Naples (H) – kick-off 8pm