Liverpool build 'Melwood Arena' to create spirit of the streets

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders

LIVERPOOL have built a cage football pitch nicknamed the ‘Melwood Arena’ at their AXA Training Centre this summer in an effort to 'create the street' and improve their attacking play.

Speaking on the TGG Podcast, which you can listen to below, assistant Pep Lijnders revealed that the arena had been inspired by the gaiolas (cages) of Portuguese street football. The 40-year-old worked at Porto before arriving at Anfield in 2014.

“I asked Jurgen what the budget was last year and said I would love to build a gaiola, which is like a street pitch,” the Dutchman explained. “Jurgen in these moments is brilliant.

"I tell him the idea, ‘This is what I want, because of this, this and this.’ I really believe that we need to be better in the final third, more creative, [that] in the small space we need to hold the ball better.

“We can develop 100 exercises, but the best thing would be if we create the street. It took a while to build it, it cost a lot of money, but we had a good budget, so that was cool.

“Now we have a 20 x 40m pitch, with boarding, nets and big goals, to train this offensive aggression. We designed it ourselves. I asked the players what we should call it [and] we call it the Melwood Arena (after their former training ground).

“It has natural grass, with sprinklers so they can water it before (playing). It has to be natural grass, exactly the same as the deso pitch we have (at Anfield). On one side it says ‘Melwood Arena’ and on the other side - and Vitor (Matos) make this quote - ‘This place belongs to the ones who only have winning in their mind’.

“It comes from Porto, because at Porto we said, ‘We love the ones who hate to lose.’ The ball is constantly in play and doesn’t go out. We play 5 v 5 and winner stays on. And what I see in these moments… the creation, the type of goals, it just blows my mind.

"I really believe the player has to be with all he has into the session. Not just the legs, not just the lungs, but also the brain, the heart. That is why I love to go back to the old days, where it was winner stays on, the street.”

Lijnders also likes to use something he calls the ‘identity game’ at Liverpool.

He explained it like this: “Two teams play each other and the other team is waiting in the other half. So one team is always defending the halfway line and attacking the goal; and one team is defending the goal and attacking the halfway line.

“When they pass the halfway line they play against the team there."

Lijnders said both the 'Melwood Arena' and identity game were inspired the same objective: stimulating competition and getting the players to uphold their honour.

"I believe that football is about honour - you want to be the best you can be," he said. "Because how can I inspire Mo Salah, after how many games? But I put Mo Salah in the identity game and tell Mo, ‘you pick six players,’ and then I say to Trent (Alexander-Arnold), ‘you pick six players,’ and I say to Virgil (Van Dijk), ‘you pick six players,’ and play the 7 v 7 identity game.

“You know how it goes? You know how it goes?! They train with a knife between the teeth! You reach levels you could not reach without that. So I try to play with the honour of the players a lot. They don’t know, but that’s what I try to do, because that’s the only way to improve.

“This is something you need, this hunger, this passion. You need to stimulate something.”

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