Pep Lijnders has been providing the official site with weekly updates about the team’s preseason adventures during their time in Austria and France. He’s just put out the final entry, which means that we are very close to the start of the new season. This has been one of those summer where the football never really stopped, so the fact that it’s nearly mid-August very much snuck up on me.
He seem positive about their month abroad and the way that it has prepared the players for the season ahead.
“Four weeks, double sessions, repeating the same message,” Lijnders said. “Our main players absorbed the info, the training, they showed so much will to improve. These points are not rocket science but important details. Search to improve a little!
“We have huge respect for our players for how they’ve dealt with these four weeks of intense training. There is more and more togetherness, the team spirit is growing and all essential elements to win football matches. The aspects we wanted and needed to improve, we did.”
While he was careful not to give away any specific details, he did say that, as a team, they were focused on improving their set pieces: “[d]irect free-kicks, wide free-kicks, penalties and corners.” According to Lijnders, “With the away goal rule cancelled there will be, for example, many more penalty shootouts. We saw in the Euros, and indeed in the history of tournaments, that set-pieces decide. It was always like this, and will always stay like this.”
They worked with a company called Neuro11, the result of which was the players shooting free kicks while hooked up to a device straight out of A Clockwork Orange. Hey, if it works, it works.
The team has two more friendlies: one against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and the final preseason match against CA Osasuna before the Premier League officially kicks off away to Norwich City next Saturday.