“Compliments to neuro11!” Liverpool FC manager Jürgen Klopp gave a cheeky shout-out to neuroscience trainers neuro11 in his post-game interview after the League Cup final. So... who exactly are they? According to the Echo, neuro11 are a scientific group founded by Niklas Hausler and Patrick Hantschke. The group is based in Potsdam of Germany, and they develop mental strength training programmes for professional sports. Liverpool’s early-season success with set-pieces had certain sections of the club’s press corp talking about the partnership, and after the Carabao Cup win, they’ve been thrust into the spotlight again.
The co-founders were present at Liverpool’s pre-season training camp at Evian in the summer and have since been a regular presence at the AXA Training Centre, fine-tuning Liverpool’s set-pieces and penalties processes. And well, the results have spoken for themselves. Both Hausler and Hantschke were present at the final and got their hands on the trophy during the celebrations. At the pre-match press conference for the FA Cup tie against Norwich, Jürgen Klopp elaborated a bit more on the impact of neuro11’s work:
“Incredible impact. All the players are really excited about it and it’s about bringing specific players before a set piece in the right mindset by doing the stuff we do on the pitch. Everything gets measured, there are neuroscientists and it’s incredibly interesting and incredibly important to us.”
“It’s a very interesting new chapter for us because it’s not only penalties, although in the last week it was a lot about penalties because of the upcoming final. It’s about free-kicks, all kind of set-pieces as well.”
Data is recorded via electrodes attached to players' heads in training. A recent snap on Harvey Elliott’s Instagram shows off the strange (actually slightly unnerving) contraption.
Liverpool are the top scorers from set-pieces in the Premier League... so something’s obviously clicking here. The club have actually been in contact with neuro11 for a while now, but the coronavirus pandemic prevented them from working together until last summer.
“It’s actually a nice story,” said Klopp, who gave his players Monday off after their Wembley heroics. “A few years ago I got in contact with them because I found their ideas interesting. They are a fixed part of our coaching staff. They are not here all the time, they are in Germany obviously but they come over quite frequently.
“They were here for the last week, before that they were here for five days. That’s how it works because very often we are on the road and not here so why should they be here? It does not make sense. We need to find these moments where we are here a lot and then they work together with the boys in a specific way.”
Again, the neuro11 stuff is just yet another example of how far the club is willing to go to make gains on the pitch, no matter how small or marginal it may seem. You may of course remember the work the club has done with throw-in coach and friend of the Offside Thomas Gronnemark, a partnership that is now well into its fourth season together. And when you’re chasing a human-rights abusing petrostate-funded sports washing club with unlimited resources, it’s those little margins that could make all the difference when it’s all said and done.