In Pepijn Lijnders' third diary entry from Liverpool's pre-season training base in Austria, the assistant manager reveals what's been going on at the Reds' Salzburg camp, both on and off the pitch...
It’s been a really good, positive few days’ work for the boys since my last diary entry and we’re really pleased with all the hard work that is being done – but it’s not just on the field we are aiming to train the lads.
We want to use the time as optimally as possible. Players need to recover and get the right food between the session so that each session we can go at 100 per cent physically, but using the power of images is really important as well.
So, there was a half-hour presentation from Thomas [Gronnemark] on Thursday before dinner about what we were really good at in throw-in situations and where we could improve.
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On the pitch, you might have seen our rondos looked a little different in the video on our website.
As I have said, we play with a ‘We want the ball’ mentality – so when we lose it, we want to react as quickly as we can to get it back. When we have the ball we can attack and it’s the best defending there is.
These rondos stimulate this; the moment you lose the ball and you have to make a sprint of 20 metres and defend in that square, it reaches concentration levels you cannot reach in just the normal rondos. The normal rondos is already good because if you don’t play well you go in the middle of the circle and that’s the same in the game – if your attack isn’t good, you have to defend more. In this case, it is even better, you not only have to go into the middle, but you have to do it from 20 metres away by sprinting into the circle.
The good thing is the concentration levels go so, so high because they have to keep the ball, they have to play, play, play until the two looking to get the ball back come into the centre. That’s something that happens a lot of times in matches when you lose a ball; you have to make a sprint for 20 metres and then defend.
If you keep in mind the situation of Robbo a few years ago against Man City, he presses the first one, he presses the second one and then he presses the third one and in the end, he ends up with the goalkeeper. That’s being unpredictable in our pressing and that happens through exercises like this.
Preparing 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 on day 5️⃣ #LFCPreSeason https://t.co/r4sBx0Isfa— LFC (Liverpool FC) 16th Jul 11:28
We live by the phrase: stress the defensive play and encourage attacking play. We play in this order, first do what’s needed then do what’s pleasant. That’s how we train and prepare the team as well. So yesterday we focused on the last line work and we put eight players against our last line, and still they have to defend as high as possible. The basis of our LFC pressing game is in how our defensive line positions themselves. That’s the reason why our front three work how they work, because you can’t work without support. We have so much experience in our last line, but even with experienced players training the last line is like a plant – it needs water one day a week minimum.
The “short team”, as Arrigo Sacchi said it, because we want to decide how small the pitch is. We spent yesterday so much time to move our last line how we want them to move, correct those who don’t move in a co-ordinated way, constantly supporting our front three to press. The difference between good and bad is many times only about five metres, is how Johan Cruijff once explained it. For us at Liverpool FC it’s many times five metres forward, haha! Our way. The offensive way.
Ibou is doing really well. He comes from a different style, but there are some similarities and he has adapted well to what we want. You see him, he is really calm on the ball, he knows how to attack and when to step in when with the ball, when to play the outside pass, when to play the inside pass, when to switch the game. He has a good understanding of the game, attacking-wise. Defensively, he is strong and it is something we wanted because we play high – our centre-halves and full-backs need to be able to catch players when they break because when you play so offensively, when players slip through we do, of course, have Ali but we firstly want to catch them with our legs – solve the problem with legs. One thing Ibou has his legs!
When we train, each player is under maximum pressure. There is never a situation where you just have time and that’s what he is feeling now, that with a little bit more fatigue of training, adaptation to a new club and a new style and then having these sessions where he is constantly under pressure and has to make good decisions, then you see what kind of player you’ve bought. He has everything for the type of centre-half we want and now it is just about learning, adapting and listening to Millie, listening to Virg and so on. That’s what I like a lot, we have so many young players.
This feeling! 😁😁😁 https://t.co/Clt2U7drfL— VirgilvDijk (Virgil van Dijk) 13th Jul 17:06
On that note, one of the highlights of the camp so far has been hearing Virg’s voice organising and leading that last line.
Yesterday, I also heard a story that Mo and Harvey Elliott were sitting with each other in the dining area. Harvey had some bread and some fruit on his plate and Mo asked him how many slices of bread he’d already had that day. Harvey said one and Mo told him to only eat the fruit! Harvey told me, ‘I’m always learning from these guys!’ We have so many players who are helping the younger players and the new ones – you feel all the way through this camp that the talents are integrating, and I like that a lot.
We had a big focus on our set-pieces this morning. In these training camps, it’s about not only about going back to basics, but also about putting in new ideas and make steps to evolve and become better. In each session, there are certain topics and today was really about set-pieces and we played a game, 10 v 10, where each set-piece was repeated on half a pitch. It was really good.
In these drills, we call Joel ‘The Tower’ – it is really not fair for the boys to have set-pieces against him because he clears everything!
Joel was also the player of the tournament when we did a competition we call ‘Finals’ with street rules in the evening session on Friday! The better you play, the longer your team stays on.
I also have to highlight that Ox has scored some absolute worldies in training in these last few days – and you absolutely love to see it!
The other evening, when the staff came together after the day's training – the coaching staff, the physios, the press team – we had the idea to play a game. We never normally do that because we’re always usually watching football games, but we had this idea to play Uno because one of the kitchen staff had brought it with her. We played it with a lot of people and one thing is for sure, you immediately learn the characters of each single person!
Jürgen kept control of the table, but John Achterberg was giving more assists than Trent! Jack Robinson was quiet, analysing and ultimately winning. It was very funny to play all together!
But more importantly, overall so far, it’s a case of so far so good for us here in Austria. It feels like ‘us’ – the players are hungry, ready to improve and all the staff are pulling together with one purpose: to make us better.
Until next time,
Pep Lijnders was speaking to James Carroll