Klopp v Verheijen: who is right about Liverpool injuries?
Written by Simon Austin — May 13, 2017
JURGEN KLOPP says Chelsea have been ‘lucky’ with injuries this season, leading his old nemesis Raymond Verheijen to claim the German has created a ‘mess’ with his training regime at Liverpool.
Klopp said: “Chelsea deserved the title but I’ve said already they had most luck with injuries. Diego Costa? Did he miss one game?
"Eden Hazard one game? Pedro could play, Willian could play, their defensive line could play. You need this luck and then you go through. I don’t say we could have gone through but the gap could have been closer.”
Verheijen, the former Wales assistant manager, pounced on the comments. The Dutchman has long claimed that Klopp overtrains his players, leading to an increased number of injuries. There is extensive research that suggests his prognosis is too simplistic, which we will come to later. But these were his comments, on Talksport:
“The comments of Jurgen Klopp calling Chelsea lucky mean he is still not understanding what he himself is doing wrong and is trying to distract attention from the mess he has created. It is very simple. Everybody is impressed by how Liverpool plays against the top teams but the mistake he is making is that if you are playing with such a high tempo, you have to reduce the volume.
“If the tempo goes up the volume goes down to keep your players fit and fresh. On the one hand Klopp wants his players to play with maximum tempo and on the other hand he wants them to do it two or three times a day in training and is exhausting them and running them into the ground.
“The most important thing for a coach to understand is that they themselves are the number one reason for injuries and this has been well documented. The number one reason for injuries is fatigue and the person most responsible for that is the coach who oversees the training programme.”
First of all, it is not entirely clear how Verheijen knows the detail of Liverpool's training regime. Secondly, doubt has to be cast on his prognosis - which seems at best to be overly simplistic.
Australian sports scientist Tim Gabbett has produced extensive research showing that players are protected against injuries when they achieve high training loads - so long as they do so safely, without sudden spiking.
Earlier this year Gabbett, who has worked with Chelsea as well as Barcelona and the Football Association, told TGG: "A lot of people tend to think of workload as having a negative effect, but there’s a lot of positive that comes with it. The pendulum has swung back - no longer do we have to see workload as the bad guy.
“Getting the players to high loads is a good thing – it keeps them fit, allows them to perform at a really high level and actually keeps them injury free. High chronic loads being protective is probably the big thing that has been skipped over though. It's the true paradox.”
Verheijen went on: “In pre-season [Antonio] Conte also did sometimes two sessions a day, but the big difference is that Liverpool play a high tempo game and Conte is doing extensive tactical sessions in training walking through training patterns. Liverpool players play at 100mph in training as well. Conte didn’t exhaust his players in training, whereas Klopp did.
“[Mauricio] Pochettino definitely learnt his lessons. In his first two years at Spurs you can see every season in the last two months his team was dipping and fading away.
“This season they look like keeping up the quality. One thing I know from inside is that compared to previous seasons this pre-season he did not train as hard as many players came back from international tournaments and he reduced the volume and number of training sessions and that might be one crucial decision to allow his players to maintain it for the whole season."
Again, research has shown that suddenly dropping to low training loads in pre-season can be detrimental.
"At the other end of the spectrum is underloading, when an athlete hasn’t had enough time to develop enough chronic load, which protects you against the spikes," Gabbett told TGG. "It’s much harder to spike from the ceiling than from the basement."
Alan Pardew has said he regrets not putting his players through a tougher pre-season at Crystal Palace last summer.