Michael Owen has criticised Jurgen Klopp’s team selection on BT Sport following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Napoli, after the German manager opted to rest Reds defender Trent Alexander-Arnold.
A win for Liverpool would have seen them qualify for a place in the last 16, but Napoli are renowned for being Liverpool’s bogey team. Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti’s side beat Liverpool 2-0 in the reverse fixture in Italy.
Napoli took the lead slightly controversially as Virgil van Dijk went down after a collision with Dries Mertens, who scored. VAR checked, but allowed the goal. Dejan Lovren equalised in the second half with an excellent header.
Despite needing a win to qualify, Klopp opted to start Joe Gomez who had a torrid evening. Alexander-Arnold did eventually coming on in the 78th minute, replacing James Milner in midfield. Owen believes Klopp should have started Alexander-Arnold.
“I was surprised that Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t start, I must say,” Owen said. “He just gives them so much attacking width and crossing. Some of the crosses felt quite hopeful. They were almost chipping the ball in.
“Napoli play with three centre-backs, almost five at the back. [Kalidou] Koulibaly was virtually heading everything out. So I thought Liverpool played slightly into Napoli’s hands and didn’t create too many chances.”
TBR’s view – Did Klopp make a mistake in Liverpool team selection?
Klopp played a very conservative side. Starting Gomez at right-back over Alexander-Arnold was in order to try and offer more defensive solidity down Liverpool’s right flank. He also started Milner and Jordan Henderson alongside Fabinho in midfield.
It meant that Liverpool were devoid of much creativity in the centre of the park, with Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sitting on the substitutes bench. Fabinho did come off after 19 minutes with an injury.
It saw Liverpool fail to dominate the match, instead allowing the Napoli defence to swallow Liverpool’s pressure and hit them on the break. The Reds are still in control of the group, but need to beat RedBull Salzburg away to win the four-team contest.