IT’S fairly unique to play two games back-to-back in pre-season. It’s even more unique to have it a week before you’re due to kick-off the season proper — that puts a huge amount of pressure on the club.
In fairness, you’re not going to be able to send a shadow backroom staff to the game at Mainz on Sunday, and with it being Jürgen Klopp’s former club, there’s no way Liverpool could have got away with sending all the kids out there to play, either.
That is a big problem, and maybe that is what swayed the club to pack off the players to Germany like they did, but you’ve got to think selfishly. “Sod them, our problem isn’t them and how they unveil their new stadium sponsor, our problem is us and making sure we’re ready for our first league game.”
It’s mad to have Barcelona and Mainz just hours apart in the first place, but once that had been decided as a course of action, Liverpool should have handled it in a much better way for so many reasons. For injury-prevention reasons, for squad morale reasons and in terms of increasing minutes just the week before you start the season.
Obviously, you don’t want to reveal your hand on everything, so it’s not as simple as starting your Arsenal side in the first game against Barcelona because you might want to keep a trick or two up your sleeve. I think the way to go was really strong in that Barca game, with everybody getting at least 70 minutes.
We always see things differently as fans but you’ve got to think about what that dressing room would be like after that Barca game. Everybody was no doubt buzzing, but then Klopp has to turn to them and say, “you can’t go back and see your families because we’ve got a flight to catch, which lands in Germany at 1am.” Then the players have got to get some sleep because they’ve got a game against a team of Germans who will be right up for it, with it being the big unveiling of their new stadium sponsor.
You’re going to really struggle to get your players up for that, it can’t have been great for morale, and the players who travelled having featured on Saturday wouldn’t have been raring to go for more.
We could have picked a 16-man squad, and on 65-70 minutes made five changes, and if you end up with 10 men that doesn’t really matter, because you’ll end up with 10 men at some point in the season, anyway.
For instance, you could play the same back five that Klopp fielded on Sunday — Alex Manninger, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andre Wisdom, Joel Matip and Alberto Moreno — but then in midfield, you could forget about upcoming loan deals and give Cameron Brannagan a start. You don’t need to play Marko Grujic on the Saturday, you can put him into this game for between 60-90 minutes. Additionally, you’ve got Danny Ings, Lazar Markovic, Christian Benteke and even Ben Woodburn.
That way your key players — those who will feature against Arsenal — are tucked up in bed on the Saturday night having spent time with their family then they’re having a recovery session on the Sunday, and they’re back and ready to train on the Monday.
You can’t as a manager complain during the season about the amount of games we’re playing and then go and play two games in two different countries in the space of 24 hours, and take a number of players to play in both games, no matter how many minutes they play in each.
It’s difficult for Klopp in one sense as it’s a club close to his heart having played and managed there for 18 years, but I’m sorry you’re manager of Liverpool Football Club — you’re going to have be more ruthless than that during the season, so I see no issue with being more ruthless last weekend.
The challenge to your players who don’t feature on Saturday is to make them go to Mainz, against a team who expect you to play a shadow side, and say to the players “you’ve got to out there and represent Liverpool by beating these”. And when they do you can say to the opposition “that showed you”. That’s got to be the motivation.
You can show that second 16 how the first lot did against Barcelona and say “you’ve got to match these performance levels, otherwise how do you expect to be anywhere near the first team?”.
I’m sure it has disrupted momentum in some sense, even if it hasn’t had a huge effect on the squad as a whole. I’m sure Klopp has had to say, “look lads, we could all do without this, but let’s go out there and be professional, and try not to get injured”. I’m sure he has played it the right way behind closed doors, but it does seem a bit of a mess on the outside.
Even though it seems we got away with it in terms of injuries, it still seems an unnecessary risk to take. The players who played against Barcelona probably won’t look back on that trip to Mainz with any fondness, as they didn’t gain anything from it.
No player likes getting beat, so anybody who stepped on that pitch is going to be sat in the dressing room, annoyed because of how badly they played that day.
In regards to Emre Can and Adam Lallana — who started both of the games – they may have been happy and may have expressed to Klopp they were happy to play in both fixtures but then everything a player says to his manager has to be taken with a pinch of salt. If your manager is a big character, like Klopp, you’ll have a tendency to just say yes because you want to impress him. I can’t imagine deep down that the players were happy playing in both games.
I’d be saying to the key first-team players, “if you can’t do 65-70 minutes against Barcelona then you won’t be starting against Arsenal, so you can go to Germany.” And chances are they would say, “I’ll play 65 against Barca, boss.”
The club agreeing to such a fixture put immense pressure on Klopp. He also had the additional problem that if he was to pick a player who has no future at the club for the Mainz game, any long-term injury could impact on the ability to sell him on.
You’ve got to look at the bigger picture. We’ve had a massive pre-season and we’ve had some injuries and the Euros to factor into that. But the injuries we’ve had haven’t necessarily been related to what we’ve done in training, they seem to be either niggly injuries or contact injuries — if they were all muscle injuries then you maybe would have a look at the training regime.
Even if it was related to training, Klopp would be justified in saying, “I’m looking to play the highest intensity football in the league, so you’re going to have to be able to do that in training as well as in games.”
That’s not to say, however, that the injuries we have suffered are down to the manager and his methods, as every club seems to be having a few problems here and there. It’s just frustrating that you can have the best 11 in the league, but if they’re all sat in the stands you aren’t going to succeed.
Klopp may well have tailored the start of the season so that in the first three games he may have used the players that he’s had from the very beginning of pre-season, to give the rest more time on the training ground to catch up, and then we can look fresher as a whole after the first international break. Injuries will now prevent us from doing that.
As you’ve maybe seen on Twitter, Raymond Verheijen has been giving Klopp a bit of stick. I am a fan of his books and seminars and the periodisation model as a whole but I think he is wide of the mark on this one. Raymond has his own strong views and a need for publicity so I wouldn’t take any criticism of Klopp this summer seriously.
After a pre-season with double and triple sessions Liverpool is top of the injury table. Coincidence or predictable? pic.twitter.com/2l5APrNcBK
— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 8, 2016
If Liverpool aren’t giving their players the adequate rest, it can be a dangerous game, as we’ve seen with Daniel Sturridge, who got injured on England duty on what was meant to be one of his rest days, but I don’t believe that has been an issue this summer (last weekend apart!).
Klopp does play a high-octane brand of football, and to do that you need to train in a certain manner — it does possess that risk that you could burn players out. That said, injuries can happen to anybody at any time for a multitude of different reasons.
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