Jürgen Klopp and his Liverpool side are hard at work in preparation for the Premier League season. Klopp took some time to give an in-depth interview to Liverpoolfc.com about the many challenges of preseason as the team shifted their training camp from Austria to France.
Klopp began by discussing the need to shift training bases to help keep the players engaged during the grueling preseason workouts. New scenery helps keep the players from falling into the doldrums during training, and being abroad helps keep the team in a precautionary bubbly to help mitigate against the chance of a covid outbreak.
I said it before, never a four-week camp; never a three-week camp actually. And after two weeks we changed scenery, then after the next week again. That’s important. But we were not for one second abroad for changing scenery constantly, we could have done that in England obviously as well. I think everybody knows we had to do it, from our point of view, to be in the bubble and that we can welcome all the players in the bubble from wherever they came and they don’t have to quarantine and all these kind of things. They arrive here, get tested, all these kinds of things – and then we can focus on training. We didn’t see any other chance for us to do it in that way, that’s why we are now a little bit on tour, LFC on tour. Now we are in Evian and all good.
Of course, it’s not just the change in scenery that keeps the players engaged. Liverpool staff and the players themselves have found a variety of ways to have some fun outside of the training sessions. Besides just being a mental break, these activities are also essential for building camaraderie within the team.
We thought a lot about what we can do, what we have to do. We did some things – we had quiz nights, we had some other silly stuff which we did together. And still the big ping-pong tournament, everybody is waiting for – probably they train the whole day! So that will come up. We have other stuff organised, interesting things where the boys will get some entertainment and information and hopefully some interesting stuff which will help us for the future. That’s what you do. We train a lot, then the boys sleep hopefully at least a lot and get proper food. And so far the pre-season was really OK.
Beyond the challenges of getting training sessions together and finding ways to keep the players engaged, as well as safe, Klopp and co have to deal with players coming into training camp at different times. This summer, there were nine players involved in international competitions. Those players all finished competitions at different times, meaning they all returned, or will return, to training after their well deserved holidays at different times as well. With the season kicking off in just a couple of weeks (authors note - SERIOUSLY?!?!?!), the Brazilian contingent has just returned, and Jordan Henderson is still on holiday. Managing the integration of these players, at different levels of fitness and sharpness than those who have been training since the start of preseason, is a difficult task.
It’s a challenge for us, you can imagine. Last week, I think Shaq, Diogo, Robbo, Thiago – not the same day but in the same week at least – came back. Now the Brazilians. I saw them this morning already but I spoke only a few words because they had still holidays, they had to do the lactate test yesterday because they had to run anyway. That’s how it is. They will start tomorrow with training properly with us. That’s then pretty much we are nearly complete. Hendo will not be here probably until the end, he will get included in England. But that’s all planned like this. It’s a challenge every year. Every year. We work on so many things and then the new boys come, then the next boys come in and you think, ‘OK, by the way, so far we did and so on.’ In a specific point we have them all together and prepare for the season. But it’s always the same and so, normal business.
Klopp, who has long been vocal about issue regarding fixture congestion and the toll it takes on players, reiterated how tough it is to balance giving players proper rest and getting them ready for the season.
The players who play international football never have enough time, that was always like this. This year was the best year, though, but they never have enough time. You never have enough time to train and stuff like this – a week, two weeks before the season. So the Brazilians now, two weeks. I think last year it was 10 days, if I’m 100 per cent right, for the first game. But nobody listens about that, nobody is interested in that – we just carry on like this and everybody expects in the end kind of perfect-tuned football teams. There will be a moment in the season when that happens but in the beginning it’s pretty much for all teams the same, so it’s a fair competition. It just means we are all in the same place. We have to make sure we can win football games, we don’t have to play the best football in the world, we just have to win football games. Then step by step, finding our way again and that will happen for sure.
But in the beginning especially, for the boys it’s not easy but that’s how it is. The good thing is in three weeks’ holiday you don’t lose a lot. They don’t have three weeks’ no training – I say that every year as well. But after 10 days, they start already with training again, just not football with us. So, they are fit, they don’t lose a lot and we can use them pretty quickly in the games. That’s why we planned it like this. Maybe on Thursday in our two 60-minute games against Bologna we can involve them already, I don’t know yet – maybe 15, 20, 30 minutes. We have to see how they look exactly. Then we come home and obviously we still plan football games, so we have the two games at Anfield. There’s one team who plays that game and it’s maybe more likely, I don’t know yet, for the weekend later and the other team who came a little bit later then they will play the second game – so everybody has 90 minutes in their legs. Then we play the first game against Norwich, then we probably have again a pre-season training game on Sunday at Kirkby or wherever, just to try to give them all a chance to get some rhythm. That’s how it is.