Martin King explains why criticism of Jürgen Klopp’s training methods is misplaced.
Ever since Jürgen Klopp took over at Liverpool, the club and it’s players have experienced contrasting emotions. While huge victories in games against big teams like Manchester City, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund have seen fans and experts eating out of the hand of the eccentric German, setbacks as little as a short-term injury to a key player have seen us direct some of our frustration at him.
It is exactly this kind of setback that has evoked criticism of Klopp’s training methods from big names in the game such as Reds legend Graeme Souness, England national team manager Sam Allardyce and on a couple of occasions, former Wales coach Raymond Verheijen. This perspective may also be common amongst a number of Liverpool fans, however, part of any manager’s rebuilding of a team will always involve setbacks and using these to criticise Klopp’s work is rather inconsiderate.
Of course, statistics are considered when making any judgement in football and one would’ve particularly stood out when analysing the former Dortmund coach’s handling of his players over his ten months at Anfield. According to injury aggregator PhysioRoom.com, 20 hamstring injuries have been sustained by Liverpool players since Klopp’s arrival. However frustrating that is for supporters or pundits, their lack of acknowledgement towards the fact that the Liverpool manager’s training methods have actually proven effective – despite such an alarming tally of hamstring injuries – is where they simply get it wrong.
There’s something fascinating about the human body and its connection to the brain. I’m no scientist but I’ve heard that doing something regularly enough forms new brain cells, which allows for habits to develop, ensuring that both body and mind are used to it.
It’s no different for football players. Operating under a specified training regime, however soft or intense it is, can easily become accustomed to by players’ body’s and minds. When the time comes to change from one form of training to another, the established cells have to be destroyed in order for new ones to be formed again and this process may, unfortunately, involve negative reactions from the body and mind, such as stress and injuries.
For a number of Liverpool players, transitioning from former boss Brendan Rodgers’ training methods to Jürgen Klopp’s has, as well, been a process that has seen their bodies react in the way of the latter. In other words, the Reds squad is still adapting to Klopp’s intense methods and while minor injuries to stars like Philippe Coutinho may be part of the process, complete adaptation would play an important role in Liverpool’s future success.
In truth, Klopp’s training methods have already weaned the best out of some of his players. Midfielder Adam Lallana has looked fitter and sharper ever since the German’s arrival and has regularly carried over his manager’s instructions to press opponents high up the pitch, thus his continued presence in the starting eleven. They may not have been as intensive but at some point last season, Klopp’s methods got Daniel Sturridge looking like the striker we all know and love and Nathaniel Clyne has managed to put in injury-free, consistent performances at right-back for both club and country.
Instead of blasting his methods, fans and experts should at least be providing some hope that Klopp will soon enough be able to get the best out of his entire squad on a more consistent basis as even Bundesliga side Dortmund became world-beaters under him thanks to his intense approach.
Klopp is a one-of-a-kind coach with a one-of-a-kind mentality. If we’re going to expect him to do a much better job than Liverpool’s previous few managers then we’ll need to let him do it his way, even on the training pitch.