Liverpool are wrapping up their preseason preparations as they get set to open their 2022-23 campaign on the heels of a campaign that saw the Reds come agonizingly close to a historic quadruple. Before the squad flew home to England to get set for their Community Shield match with Manchester City, assistant manager Pep Lijnders and head of elite player development Vitor Matos sat down with the crew at Liverpoolfc.com for a Q&A session.
The two covered a lot of ground, ranging from topics about the general goals for the squad’s preseason preparations to integrating new players to the Liverpool way, and all the way to thoughts on player development through loans. There were some particularly interesting nuggets pertaining to the patterns of play that were a focus during the training camp. Pep Lijnders said the team really wanted to improve their attacking play against teams playing a low block.
“I think offensively the main improvement point is having less players but more initiative in our build-up to outplay the deep-defending sides better, a flexible structure to break the opposition last line more easily. There are so many points we are trying to improve, to be honest. In the end, it’s always about, ‘How brave are we?’ We are working hard to make these next steps in training and meetings – Austria is great for this. The players are so open and willing – they make all our ideas 90 per cent better! That’s the nice thing when you work with top players, in the end their creativity will make the difference, so we have to keep stimulating this part.”
Vitor Matos also spoke about how the coaching staff working closely with the Academy staff to implement a set up and style of play similar to the first team has allowed for a smooth transition. Last season, players like Tyler Morton were able to step into first team roles when called upon and didn’t look at all out of place.
“I think that’s most important and that’s one of the biggest advantages of an academy, because you develop players in your own way. You develop players with the identity that you want. That’s what you can gain by having a good inside pathway. We can see how easy the transition is, how smooth that will be. It’s a completely different idea when a player is playing in a similar way from the youth until the first team. And when he arrives in the first team, everything is much more, not simple, but much more easy for him to learn, to keep improving, and he completely feels free – that’s the most important thing for a young player.”
Another interesting wrinkle this season is the FIFA World Cup happening smack-dab in the middle of the European seasons, meaning the Premier League will have an extended break during the winter for the first time ever. As far as planning for the season goes, Lijnders feels this upcoming season becomes a tale of two sprints rather than one, long slog like last year.
“ Last year felt like a marathon, or better probably an Ironman. This one will probably be two sprints. So one sprint until the World Cup and then this real break – not a break for the national [players] – and then another towards the end of the season. What’s always important with a sprint is that you start fast.”
There are plenty of more interesting details from the Q&A, and well worth the time to read.