It is April and Liverpool’s squad durability has resulted in the Reds being able to complete the coveted quadruple.
Will it happen?
That is a debate for another day, but why Liverpool are in this position comes down to one very important factor: their ability to keep key players fit and injury free at the most important times in the season.
Lessons have been learnt from a disappointing and injury riddled 2020/2021 season.
The spine of any side runs through the centre of the pitch.
In the case of Liverpool Alisson Becker, Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Mo Salah.
Keep all these players fit and you’re in the conversation for the biggest honours both domestically and in Europe.
The data in figure one indicates that the spine this season have missed a combined eight games through injury or illness.
The key stat is Van Dijk missing 45 games in 2020/2021 due to an ACL injury compared to four games this season.
Nutritionist Caraigh McGuinness has worked with athletes who have injured their cruciate ligaments focusing on nutrition as the fundamentals to recovery.
“My athletes upped their overall calorie intake but at the same time eating well with a wide variety of nutrient depth foods to support the muscles and tendons.
“Alongside strength training it can really help and get them back within a couple of months,” she said.
McGuinness indicated calorie intake is not all about protein but a balance of carbohydrates, vitamin D, calcium and antioxidants from fruit and vegetables.
The head of nutritionist for Liverpool is Mona Nemmer who Jurgen Klopp has credited as one of the key people in revolutionising the Reds set up.
Another individual behind a lot of Liverpool’s good work this season is Lena Aschenbrenner who was brought in over the summer as prevention and performance physiotherapist joining after working for nine years in the EDEN REHEN facility in Germany.
Although injuries happen in football it wasn’t just the loss of Van Dijk last season which caused the decline of Liverpool.
The subsequent season-ending centre back injuries resulted in Fabinho having to drop into the defence for large portions of the season hence 50% of the spine was absent.
One game changing moment this season for Liverpool was the signing of Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig. This has ensured game time has been shared with Matip enhancing Liverpool’s squad durability.
Matip has been absent for large parts of the cup competitions, having not started a single FA Cup game and not completing a full match in their run to the Carabao Cup final.
He also missed out on the last Champions League group game alongside the first leg against Inter Milan.
It wasn’t until game week 18 when Matip played more than four games in a row in the league.
Matip has now completed the most league games ever in a season in his career.
Which shows how his recovery and management is now a major focus.
His player of the month award for February indicates the hard work of Aschenbrenner and the nutrition team.
McGuinness stated that post game is the most important time for any nutritionist to help enhance performance.
She said: “After a match nutritionists immediately will try and get their athletes to eat within 30 minutes in order to get the recovery process started straight away.
“We work very closely with sports scientists, physiotherapists and everything just to get that recovery process going.
“At half time things like energy drinks can start up the recovery process even when you are still playing, all these things come into account for sure.”
Creative players- difference makers!
The infamous front three has dragged Liverpool to glory over the last five years.
However, the issues last year came from the lack of a new generation of difference makers who were sidelined again through injury for large portions of the season.
Thiago Alcântara, Naby Keita and Diogo Jota all missed over 20 games last year through injury.
Amazingly, this season Keita hasn’t recorded an injury with Thiago the only player to continue to struggle with injuries.
More emphasis is now placed on fitness coach Conall Murtagh during training.
His goal is to prevent recurring muscle injuries.
For example, Naby Keita since joining Liverpool has had three separate groin injuries.
Staff pulled Keita out of the recent international break with a minor knock, showcasing how important monitoring players has become.
Furthermore, rotation in attacking positions with the addition of Luis Diaz, who only missed two games last season through muscle injuries.
Showing durability is a focus for Liverpool now with recruitment.
This was Julian Ward’s first fully negotiated deal who is set to replace Michael Edward. Indicating the future potential recruitment vision.
A freak accident to Harvey Elliott alongside injury issues to Thiago has been Liverpool’s only problem this season. Indicating Klopp has learnt from last season.
Although Dr Jim Moxon who replaced Andy Massey as club doctor, has proven a vital component in getting both players back quickly – alongside head of performance and recovery Dr Andreas Schlumberger.
One player who will be pivotal to success is captain Jordan Henderson, who has only completed 15 full 90 minutes this season.
At the age of 31 and with groin trouble last season keeping him out for 15 games, a fresh Henderson for the run-in will be vital with his leadership a core component to Liverpool’s success.
Overall, putting injuries this season and last into numbers, shows how the Reds have not used the last season as an excuse.
Rather it is seen as a learning curve and the importance of preparation and rotation.
This is proven by the subtle changes in personnel both on and off the pitch to improve Liverpool’s squad durability.
(Featured image courtesy of Creative Commons License – Mehdi FARS Agency)