Napoli 1-0 Liverpool: Tactical Analysis

SSC Napoli v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Group C
Lorenzo Insigne celebrates his late winner

Last night, Napoli were 1-0 winners against Liverpool at San Paolo, courtesy of a late winner from local star Lorenzo Insigne on the cusp of full-time. PSG thrashed Crvena Zvezda 6-1 in the day's early kick-off and this result means the situation in Group C is very intriguing, one that remains wide open after two matchdays.

After a poor showing in Belgrade on matchday one, Napoli responded in precisely the right manner - enjoying a narrow victory but this was fully deserved as they created chances aplenty and were unfortunate not to be ahead earlier.

Liverpool meanwhile, offered very little going forward and failed to register a shot on target in a Champions League group stage fixture for the first time in over a decade. Carlo Ancelotti outsmarted Jurgen Klopp, while once again proving his managerial quality and worth to an Italian side many critics wrote off after Maurizio Sarri's departure this past summer.

Lineups and formations

Napoli vs Liverpool: Starting lineups

Jurgen Klopp started the match with his standard 4-3-3 formation - Naby Keita started in place of captain Jordan Henderson, in the German's only change.

Meanwhile, Ancelotti set his side up in the traditional 4-4-2 formation with goalscorer Insigne partnering Arkadiusz Milik in attack. He was rightly aware of Liverpool's dangerous attacking trio, so started Nikola Maksimović at right-back ahead of Elseid Hysaj - though the Serbian international operated in a more central role alongside Raul Albiol and Kalidou Koulibaly to effectively isolate Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

Nemanja M
Nikola Maksimović playing as the right-sided centre-back

Jose Callejon started on the right-wing, so when the ball was on the left side of the pitch, his task was to stay wide and play in isolation duels with Andrew Robertson.

Jose Callejon continued to hug the flank and provide width

Meanwhile on the left-hand side, Napoli had a completely different structure. Fabian Ruiz played on the opposite flank - though it's not his natural position. Naturally a central midfielder, his task was to come into the left half space and because of this, Mario Rui occupied the left-wing space as you can see in the picture below.

Fabian Ruiz playing in the left half space and Mario Rui in the left wing space

This shape, with Fabian Ruiz more centrally, gave an advantage to Napoli in the middle. This allowed them to control the midfield and nullify Liverpool's pressing tactic because they have very technically gifted players who are press resistant - also helping to create 4v3 overloads in similar positions.

Napoli in attacking areas

During the first-half of this game, proceedings were fairly even. After the interval though, Napoli were in total control of the match and statistics reiterate this: 13 shots to Liverpool's paltry one after the break.

The Reds were efficiently nullified from their attempts to play out from defence, which also resulted in over 100 misplaced passes from the visitors.

Napoli pressing Liverpool's backline quickly out from the back forced mistakes

The main problem for Liverpool here was their inactive midfield - who could not control their game because they were continuously overloaded (4v3) as shown in the picture below.

4 vs 3 battles in midfield

Napoli knew it was successful and continued to search for overload situations down their left flank, which caused plenty of problems for Trent Alexander-Arnold - who has tendencies to push forward regularly. So naturally, most of their promising opportunities stemmed from the left side.

Trent had to remain focused out of possession as he was being doubled regularly

Napoli's chance creation was impressive so Insigne's finish in the 90th minute came as no real surprise, just a hammer blow for Liverpool who were holding out for a valuable away draw. Robertson was forced to push out and press Callejon, who continued staying wide.

Callejon receiving the ball

Callejon played the ball into Dries Mertens, who attacked the gap between Virgil van Dijk and Robertson as you can also spot in the picture below.

Callejon attacking the gap between van Dijk and Robertson

And finally, Callejon played the piercing through ball into Insigne's path, who made no mistake with his well-taken finish.

Callejon playing the all-important pass to Insigne


Carlo Ancelotti tactically outsmarted Jurgen Klopp last night. Napoli played very good pressing and forced Liverpool to make many errors. Liverpool wasn't able to boss the midfield so their attacking players were totally separated from the rest of the team. Also, Liverpool's squad looks tired and they will have big problems against Manchester City in the next match.

Carlo Ancelotti tactically outsmarted Jurgen Klopp last night. Napoli adopted a very good pressing tactic, forcing the visitors into making plenty errors. Liverpool were unable to control midfield battles as they normally would, so their attacking players were totally separated from the rest of the team and underperformed. In addition to that, the Reds appear tired and they could have big issues ahead with defending champions Manchester City to come next on Sunday afternoon.

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Edited by Mosope Ominiyi
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