Jurgen Klopp has a number of selection dilemmas to make ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Ajax after being thrashed at Napoli in their opening Champions League game.
Liverpool will be looking to bounce back from their demoralising defeat against Napoli when they host Ajax in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
The Reds were beaten 4-1 by the Serie A side last week courtesy of a Piotr Zielinski brace and goals from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Giovanni Simeone. Luis Diaz scored the Reds’ only goal of the game but it wasn’t enough to prevent a heavy loss as Jurgen Klopp’s side suffered their third defeat of the season.
After the Reds’ clash with Wolves was postponed due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, they are next in action when Ajax visit Liverpool in midweek. It is a chance for Klopp’s men to prove the critics wrong after they were slammed for their performance at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Klopp could decide to rotate the pack and freshen up his squad given their mixed start to the campaign, with some supporters calling for big names to be dropped. So, with that in mind, here are three ruthless decisions Klopp should make ahead of the Reds’ clash with Ajax.
Alexander-Arnold has been a shadow of his former self this season. Discounting the Reds’ 9-0 thrashing of Bournemouth, the 23-year-old has failed to provide a goal or an assist in six matches – a poor return for a player of his quality. He has particularly struggled with his final ball and delivery from set pieces, with the right-back not looking as sharp as he normally is.
But he has been even worse defensively. Napoli’s second goal pretty much summed Alexander-Arnold’s form up. Anguissa played a routine one-two with Zielinski on the edge of the Liverpool box, before ghosting past the England international and into the area. He received the ball with Alexander-Arnold nowhere to be seen and then slotted the ball into the back of the net.
It was a calamitous piece of defending all-round, but Alexander-Arnold’s role in the goal has been pointed out. When analysing Anguissa’s strike from Liverpool’s point-of-view, Rio Ferdinand said: “Gomez makes the mistake but you’ve got to get back and help your team-mates and Trent didn’t do that. Liverpool got teased, they got embarrassed, they got shown up.”
Alexander-Arnold has been below-par all season and Klopp should take him out of the limelight and give him time to work on his game, especially defensively. The Liverpool boss could move Joe Gomez across to right-back and bring Joel Matip back into the side alongside Virgil van Djik. This would allow the Reds to be better defensively with Gomez impressing in that position when he’s called upon.
Another selection dilemma for Klopp is whether he decides to bring Darwin Nunez back into the starting XI. The £85m summer recruit returned to the Liverpool side for the Merseyside derby but failed to impress and was sent back down to the bench for the Reds’ trip to Napoli.
However, Liverpool lacked physicality across the forward line, especially against the likes of Amir Rrahmani and Min-jae Kim, who often prefer to be up against a Roberto Firmino type player that tries to drop deep and link between the lines. Nunez would have been ideal to stretch the Napoli defence and given them something else to think about, rather than everything to feet.
This is what Klopp should do against Ajax and play Nunez from the start in front of Liverpool faithful. There is no doubt he will still be motivated to right the wrongs after he was sent off on his first appearance in a Reds shirt at Anfield. But with Liverpool needing some extra spark in attack, Klopp should give Nunez another go and see if he can ruffle a stern Ajax defence.
Although it seems harsh to drop Harvey Elliott after his recent performances, Thiago has to come back into the starting XI. His experience and ability to control games is essential and recalling the Spaniard would also ease the burden on Elliott, who has had to carry a lot of responsibility on his shoulders this season.
Thiago hasn’t started a game since injuring himself in the 2-2 draw at Fulham on the opening day but did make his return in the defeat in Naples, with the midfielder playing the final 27 minutes. With Thiago also having five days to prepare, he should be fit enough to start against Ajax which would give the Reds a lot more quality in the No.8 position.
Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita are still out, meaning James Milner is likely to continue in midfield alongside Fabinho, with Thiago slotting in as Klopp could field a very experienced midfield three. Ajax are expected to try and dominate possession, so Liverpool need as many dictators in the middle of the park to stop start, with Thiago one of them.