Industriousness. Work rate. Assiduousness. When one pictures the current incarnation of Liverpool's first team, the vision of a group, unified in honest sedulity, is one of the defining characteristics that is conjured in the mind. A particularly heartening aspect of watching Liverpool play these days is that one can revel in the sheer effort being put in by the players, whether in possession or without the ball. Countless times, in any given match, one will witness the spectacle of the Red swarm -- several bodies working in concert to regain the ball or to force it across the opposition's goal line. It's invigorating stuff.
If the manager must take considerable credit for this most fan-friendly of advances in the team's style of play, there should also be acknowledgement of the team of fitness and nutrition experts that work with the squad individually to assure their readiness to put in the kind of shift demanded by Rodgers as his side chase the top three. Much has rightly been made of the positive effect Dr. Steve Peters has had on the mental side of the players' preparation, but the efforts of head of performance, Glen Driscoll, and his team have been no less central to the on-pitch improvements over the length of Rodgers' tenure thus far.
In a fascinating discussion with the club's official website, Driscoll manages to paint a compelling picture of some of our best performers and incorporate the word 'extrinsically' while doing so. Truly, the man is an alchemist! Jordan Henderson, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are all mentioned in his fascinating sketch of life at Melwood. The Uruguayan and the young midfielder, it seems, are in need of protection from their own zeal, whilst the England front man has shown such application while injured that his acclimatisation period was almost entirely erased upon his return.
"Luis is a phenomenon," Driscoll insisted, a little redundantly. "He has an unrelenting drive and mentality but is also very robust intrinsically. But, extrinsically, because of the recovery strategies we give the players, we minimise the risk of burn-out. If we didn't periodise the players appropriately, not giving them two days recovery, and a two-day preparation phase leading into games, which is lighter, we would be at risk of flat-lining players.
"What Henderson and Suarez have in common is we believe they are two players who need protecting from themselves. They would take the option of not recovering if we gave it to them and work every day between games. You have to admire their work ethic and desire but experience tells us if they did this, it would be detrimental to their performance and increase the risk of injury. There are other times in the week when we can let them fly, and thankfully they are certainly doing that in matches at the moment."
Now I don't know about you, dear reader, but when I hear about two of my favourite players being so resolute and dogged in their desire to don the Liverbird, my man-love quotient flies off the adore-ometer. The notion of poor Jordan needing to be told to sit down so he doesn't hurt himself or Luis being cajoled into taking Delfina to the cinema instead of training is just too wonderful. These guys care. They are proper professionals who want to do their level best, plus a bit more, in each game. They are the reason that Brendan can play fast and loose with the laws of mathematics and cite 150% as a thing that can be attained. Henderson and Suarez actually can.
Another spectacular example of dedication and focus is the remarkable Daniel Sturridge. This young man has found his perfect milieu at Anfield, leading the attack of a side that is actually challenging at the top end of the Premier League. His record of 19 goals in 22 appearances this year is nothing short of staggering when one considers that he had a six week lay-off with an ankle injury. There was no period of readjustment required for Sturridge, however, as he hit the ground running on his return. Driscoll was quick to praise the striker's conscientiousness and resolve whilst on the sidelines.
"When injuries do happen, we take it as an opportunity to work on a player's fitness, strength and injury prevention programme," he averred. "So although Sturridge was out injured with his ankle, he was doing long days at Melwood working on his general strength and conditioning. This commitment to his rehabilitation enabled him to come back and hit the ground running as he did after both injuries."
As we face into the final run of league fixtures with an uneasy bedfellow, known as Hope, alongside us, it is comforting to know that the passionate devotion of those wearing the jersey is matched by the professionalism and efficiency of those entrusted with the task of keeping those players in their peak condition. Somewhat giddy at the thoughts of what might be attained, we cross all extremities for luck, safe in the knowledge that all concerned are tenacious and talented enough not to be reliant on Dame Fortune.