Pre-season with Klopp means there is very little time to rest. Players are allowed a short break after international commitments and are then put straight back to work.
Last summer was a crucial pre-season for Klopp. It was his first in charge of the Reds and he put his players through a strenuous workout as he implemented his unique style on the team. The gruelling training methods, which he used previously at Borussia Dortmund, were used to identify players who would be up for the fight and who he cannot rely on in the coming season.
Players were often put through three sessions a day at Melwood, but only when it was deemed appropriate to do so by Klopp’s backroom staff who he poached from Bayern Munich, with a very scientific approach to monitor fitness levels.
Previously, Klopp had sought the aid of German company Life Kinetik to improve the natural intelligence of his players and he was looking to do the same at Liverpool. The training combines coordinative exercises with training of visual perception, something that benefits goalkeepers. He was said to have tested his Bundesliga methods with the academy, but it is unclear whether he has employed the methods in his first-team training sessions.
Of course, Klopp had to adjust to Liverpool’s commercial commitments which involves a lot of travelling for pre-season tours, however Liverpool travelled less than in previous summers, and the same is happening this summer as the focus is primarily on football first, and commercial commitments second.
But Klopp still believes that tours are important, particularly for building team spirit. The players have the opportunity to bond off the pitch and that is something Klopp encourages as it helps with communication and teamwork on the pitch.
So far the Reds have played four pre-season games, two friendlies against Tranmere Rovers and Wigan Athletic, before jetting off to Hong Kong to compete in the Premier League Asia trophy, which Liverpool were crowned the winners of last Saturday.
Liverpool have four pre-season fixtures left before they kick off the season at Vicarage Road on August 12th, but the result of those don’t phase Klopp as he refers to these games as extra “sessions”. You may have seen the players in training on the club’s social media as well as the players posting their own images and videos of them hard at work and it’s obvious that Klopp is pushing the players to the max to prepare them for a busy season ahead.
Last season Klopp had to compromise with 15 players having been away at Euro 2016 and Philippe Coutinho had his international commitments, so they were out of training for the first three weeks which meant their training had to be extended into the new season.
Klopp had told his players: ‘we can’t control other clubs spending more than us, but we can control fitness’ – something they quickly bought into. His intense methods were criticised for being the cause of several injuries in just a matter of months, but Klopp hit back blaming the hectic festive schedule for putting players at risk. Klopp had never managed a side without a winter break before joining Liverpool so that was an adaptation required for him and Roberto Firmino, who had never played during the winter months.
Now Under-18s coach Steven Gerrard returned to Merseyside during the MLS off-season during his spell at LA Galaxy in 2015 and revealed how Klopp’s training sessions left him “wiped out”. He compared the training to previous sessions under different managers and said, “From game to game it was very light, but with Klopp it was running. You’d come off the training pitch wiped out.”
It is understandable that players would need to adjust to the manager’s gruelling methods and at the beginning that can be tough, as new signings Andy Robertson and Mo Salah are currently learning. Last season, the intense training continued with double sessions in the week as there was no European football. This season, however, the Reds will have four competitions to tackle, so it is vital that the players are fit and ready come August.
But how does that compare to other Premier League teams’ pre-season training?
I compared our pre-season (this summer) to the rest of the top-six teams in the league – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
The red team of Manchester have almost as many games as Liverpool this summer, playing a total of seven including three in the International Champions Cup which Liverpool played in last summer. Not including the flights to and from the UK, United have to travel a total of 12 hours in the United States alone, as well as trips to Norway and Dublin for friendlies before they play against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup in Macedonia.
The sky blue half of Manchester have just over half of the travel time, and only four games to play and are also in the ICC. The lack of travel time means more training, which is crucial for a top Premier League side.
Chelsea have only revealed three pre-season games in the Far East, however it is expected that there will be behind-closed-doors friendlies in England before the season kicks off in August. The only travelling they will have to do is a six-hour flight from Beijing to Singapore. They will also face Arsenal for the Community Shield on August 6th, six days before their season kicks off.
Arsenal have six games in Australia and China this summer. From Sydney it’s a ten-hour flight to Shanghai before they end their pre-season friendlies on July 30th and prepare to face London rivals Chelsea at Wembley for the Community Shield a week later. Their season will kick off on Friday 11th August, the first game of the new season, against Leicester City.
Spurs will be moving to Wembley next season as they bid farewell to White Hart Lane last season, but not before they compete in the ICC and play another friendly at Wembley on August 5th to settle into their new home. They will travel a total of five hours in the U.S. – a lot less than their competitors. Their season kicks off on August 13th against newly-promoted Newcastle United.
In comparison to Liverpool, these teams have it easier, but Klopp would probably disagree. He emphasises the importance of team bonding as well as training and will most likely say that playing eight games in pre-season is the right amount. The Reds will have a Champions League qualifier to play in August as well as trying to ensure a solid start to their league campaign, so the more training the players can get, the better, and if they can fulfil their commercial commitments and kill two birds with one stone, why not?
Most Premier League teams, especially those mentioned, will have to complete a tour and travel abroad over the summer as the league continues to grow globally. It is what Klopp will have to get used to, and it is becoming common in all leagues now.
With new additions to the squad they will need to settle into the city and the squad, as well as get to know their new teammates and manager. Players such as Danny Ings, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mané have all returned to training after injury and will be likely to join the rest of the team in Germany this week.
I have complete faith that Klopp and his staff know what they are doing in terms of improving fitness and making sure the team is ready for the jam-packed season ahead. If the Reds are to be a threat in the Champions League they will need to feel prepared, while also keeping one eye on the Premier League.
It’ll be a tough season, a busy one, an expensive one for fans who follow the Reds around the UK and Europe, but it’ll be a defining one for Jürgen Klopp.