This may — although probably not — come as a shock to some of you, but Jürgen Klopp is super into running. Despite writing his sports science thesis on walking, the German has found that in order for his high-intensity, transition-heavy football to work, he needs athletes with big engines who can cover a lot of ground for the full 90 minutes.
Good thing, then, that his recruitment team at Anfield are on the same page as the manager, and have provided him with exactly the sort of player he requires, and, in an odd sort of coincidental prescience, had begun doing so before he even arrived on Merseyside. Naby Keïta may have brought his significant work capacity this summer, but it is 32-year old James Milner — now in his fourth year at the club since moving on a free transfer from Manchester City — who was top dog at the team’s endurance tests this summer.
Along with the versatile Georginio Wijnaldum, the pair covered formidable amounts of ground during Liverpool’s 4-0 thumping of West Ham on Sunday, and Klopp is adamant that fact was instrumental in securing the win.
“What Gini and Millie did was quite impressive, I have to say,” the manager told the official site. “That’s good, we need that.
“At the end it looks like 4-0 is quite comfortable but I’m pretty sure that all three midfielders – or at least these two – had to run 13km or more. You have to work really hard so a game can look like that.
“The good thing is all our midfielders – Hendo, Adam [Lallana] – all work, “ he continued. “They accept the offensive line sometimes has not exactly the same desire to defend, so they close the gaps and help us with that. That makes their life a bit more uncomfortable, but helps us in other situations.”
While one presumes Roberto Firmino — perpetual motion machine and bane of inattentive midfielders everywhere — is omitted from that last part, there is no doubt that the Reds’ attackers — the deadliest in Europe last season — benefit massively from the industry of the trio behind them. Having gotten off to an impressive start, one hopes the trend will continue this year, and may just be the catalyst that propels the side to a trophy or two.