Fitness Under Klopp: Is Fitness a Factor in Inconsistency?
Jurgen Klopp’s attitude towards physical fitness and exertion was understood way before he joined Liverpool back in late 2015. Back in those early training sessions after he got the job he explained to the players how the more they ran, the less they’d lose. And although obviously not gospel, Liverpool have seemed to outrun most of their opponents during their games since, win or lose. Klopp’s considered, charismatic ways have made it so that the players understand the logic and benefits of his philosophy, as opposed to blindly following orders during training.
So how has training changed at Melwood since the German manager has taken over? As mentioned there is much more focus on individual and overall fitness, with Klopp bringing in techniques used by the German company Life Kinetic. This seems to be paying off, with the players running on average 4km more than they did in any game during Rodgers’s last season.
Training also focuses a lot on reaction speed, with Life Kinetic utilising some very unique approaches, “combining coordinative exercises with training of visual perception”. Klopp has also expressed his belief in making more options available to the player who currently has the ball through movement, leading them to make the best decision in the shortest time possible. So chances are this type of highly articulated training couldn’t be replicated with a football and/or gym work alone – a very specialist, focused kind of coaching is required for the breakneck-speed counter-attacking that we’ve seen this season to take place.
Pattern of the Game
The pattern we’ve seen develop lately is not that Liverpool begin fast as is often thought. In fact, records show that they tend to feel out the game and opposition first, before dominating and being in control from around the half hour mark. They then frustrate their opponents with their stamina and determination until they eventually find a goal or wear down the teams towards the lower end of the table. But unfortunately this has recently brought in complications against teams outside the top six, often leading to an early goal conceded, which is always incredibly hard to come back from in the Premier League – especially against teams that love to sit back and defend a 1-0 lead.
Recent Problems Are Not Fitness-Related
Klopp has publicly announced that he doesn’t believe the recent run of troubling results has anything to do with player fitness or his regime, instead identifying defending as a potential Achilles heel along with other factors, with luck not going in their favour. He explained that players have still been high up the pitch regularly, have still covered roughly the same amount of distance in games, and still dominated possession. It was also clear from watching the early games of the year that the squad missed Mane’s pace upfront while he was away at the African Cup of Nations. But after a home win over Arsenal and Burnley and a 1-1 draw at the Etihad, the Reds are hoping they’re now back to their winning ways of the beginning of the season. And with statistics showing that Liverpool are fitter and stronger than most teams they face, the run-in could signal some good times ahead.