Virgil van Dijk presented innovative training method in Liverpool against Athletic Bilbao
As fans rejoiced at the return of Virgil van Dijk to the Anfield crowd, it was the Dutchman who presented Liverpool’s latest tactical adjustment against Athletic Bilbao.
While his 40-yard passes may have drawn attention, it was higher up the field that the defenseman pointed out the Reds’ preseason plans.
Pep lijnders revealed last week that the team had worked with Niklas Hausler and Patrick Hantschke from neuro11 , during their training camp in Evian.
Co-founders of the initiative, the University of Bonn couple specialize in designing mental strength training programs for professional sports and have worked directly with the Liverpool set-pieces.
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Mohamed Salah, James Milner, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Harvey Elliott all received a crash course as Jürgen Klopp and his staff sought to find marginal gains on free kicks and penalties.
Van Dijk seemed to be the main beneficiary of this work Sunday against Athletic Bilbao as he quickly chained two corners from Alexander-Arnold.
For the first opportunity, the Reds center-half dominated his marker and stretched towards the ball as he moved away from the target; Five minutes later, he arrived late at the far post, ducking for a diving header he couldn’t quite turn towards goal.
Liverpool Assistant manager Pep Lijnders believes exploring the new training method could make a difference in the coming season.
“One of our ideas was to improve the delivery of our set pieces,” he said. “Direct free kicks, wide free kicks, shots on goal and corners,” he said on the club’s website.
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“We met Niklas and Patrick from Neuro11 three years ago. We wanted to work together, everything was ready, but the pandemic made it impossible.
“Jurgen and I really believe in these two guys and their concept. We believe in the stimulus they give. Hope we can make this part consistent.”
After going through a three-year wait to get their expertise, it’s clear the team has already thought about how to use this to their advantage.
The Reds set-piece routines were less successful in their second game against Osasuna, but Rhys Williams still had two clear chances, in the playoffs.
Specifically, from a second phase after a corner kick, Oxlade-Chamberlain swung the ball towards Williams at the far post, with the defender not having scored but only able to sweep the ball away. Williams also saw a head curl on the roof of the net, after a well-worked Oxlade-Chamberlain corner routine.
Lijnders further explained why set pieces can be of increasing importance in modern play.
“With the cancellation of the away goals rule, there will be, for example, a lot more shots on goal. We have seen in Euros, and even in tournament history, that set pieces decide.
“It’s always been like that, and it will always be like that. With Patrick and Niklas, we’re giving a whole new boost to precision training. Will it pay off? I hope it will be. case.”
As the new Premier League season approaches, Liverpool fans would do well to pay close attention to the team’s set pieces as Jurgen Klopp looks to add another dimension to his side’s attack.