Liverpool are currently in Evian, in the south of France, as Jurgen Klopp oversees a pre-season training camp that will be crucial for his side’s success in 2018/19.
The Reds flew to the shores of Lake Geneva on Monday, and Klopp and his backroom staff took their first training session with his 29-man group on Tuesday morning.
After four domestic friendlies and a three-game tour of the United States, this provides a welcome change of pace, and scenery, for the squad.
With under two weeks to go until Liverpool’s Premier League curtain raiser at home to West Ham, and with a further two warmup games to play, their time in Evian is vitally important.
As Anfield prepares to welcome the Hammers on August 11, Klopp can be confident his side will hit the ground running in 2018/19.
July 2 marked the beginning of Liverpool’s pre-season, with 28 players reporting to Melwood for the first day of training, including key players, returning loanees and promising youngsters.
New signings Fabinho and Naby Keita were among those at the training ground, along with Joel Matip and Adam Lallana—both back from injury—and Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge—eager to impress after spells away.
The likes of Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum joined the group later, as did Xherdan Shaqiri, with a shifting squad put through their paces against increasingly tough opponents.
Between their first trip to take on Chester and their 4-1 win over Man United in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Reds played a friendly every 3.14 days on average.
While there was no pressure on results, and Klopp rotated heavily, this was a busier schedule than the most congested period of Liverpool’s 2017/18 season, having played a game every 3.5 days between mid-November and early January.
This, combined with draining transatlantic flights and regular media duties, ensured little time to settle, and as Klopp mentioned ahead of the clash in Michigan, testing training conditions.
“In the session today we’ll work on defence, for example, even though it’s an open session,” he told reporters. “We cannot waste time, we need all of the sessions.”
This assertion that tactical work in open training at the Big House could have given away Liverpool’s ‘secrets’ was later followed up Klopp describing the Reds’ time in Evian as “‘my’ week.”
“If you are successful it’s easy to be a group, if you start something you need to be a group before you are successful. That’s what we are working on, constantly,” he said.
“On the tour it’s a little bit difficult, because we have really different things to do—a lot of appearances and these things.
“But next week, there is nothing else to do apart from football—that’s ‘my’ week, if you want.”
As a manager who regularly extols the virtues of togetherness on and off the pitch, this week of training and team bonding is arguably the most important of pre-season.
In 2016, Klopp sought the advice of Jurgen Klinsmann before settling on Palo Alto as his squad’s base during their tour of the US, training at Stanford University.
And last summer, with Liverpool taking part in the Audi Cup, Klopp opted to remain on Lake Tegernsee, an hour away from the Allianz Arena, telling the Liverpool Echo that “we didn’t want to be actually in Munich because we wanted a proper camp.”
While in Bavaria, the Reds cycled, swam and trained relentlessly, with the manager implementing a diluted version of his famous ‘no food, no electricity‘ pre-season in Sweden from his time in charge at Mainz.
Liverpool are unlikely to sleep “each night in a fucking tent, lying on the roots” like Klopp’s former charges, but their time in Evian can be similarly productive in terms of team spirit.
With Alisson joining the squad for the first time, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino also back from their post-World Cup break and Wijnaldum still working his way back to fitness the squad will still need time to settle.
Each of that quartet could feasibly start against West Ham, as could Fabinho, Keita and Shaqiri, who will get to know their new team-mates better this week, both socially and professionally.
For the youngsters who have travelled, too—Kamil Grabara, Caoimhin Kelleher, Nat Phillips, Curtis Jones and Rafa Camacho—this will prove an invaluable experience.
Though they are unlikely to be in the squad on August 11, they can continue to adjust to life in the first team, with Klopp potentially calling on them at some stage this season.
Liverpool are still without Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson, but this time in Evian, and the upcoming friendlies against Napoli and Torino, could allow a near full-strength side to emerge from the tunnel at Anfield confident of victory.
Klopp’s Liverpool Squad in Evian
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Karius, Grabara, Kelleher
Defenders: Van Dijk, Matip, Gomez, Klavan, Phillips, Alexander-Arnold, Clyne, Robertson, Moreno
Midfielders: Keita, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner, Lallana, Grujic, Jones
Forwards: Firmino, Salah, Mane, Shaqiri, Sturridge, Solanke, Origi, Ings, Camacho