The impact of throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark at Liverpool is described as “nothing short of astonishing,” with key statistics highlighting his improvement.
Gronnemark provided a response to the out-of-touch criticism of his role with the Reds in an interview with The Athletic’s James Pearce last week, acknowledging that it is “a funny job.”
Arguing whether throw-ins should be abolished in favour of kick-ins, Jacobs explains how the approach to these set-pieces is slowly changing, notably inspired by Gronnemark.
He writes that, as opposed to the long throws popularised by Rory Delap at Stoke, “a successful throw-in is really just one where possession is retained, and the real skill is to win the ball under pressure.”
“The Premier League average for ‘retained possession under pressure’, surprisingly, is just 48.6 percent, making it the worst league in this category across Europe’s big five leagues—who hardly boast glowing stats either,” he adds.
The rest of Europe’s elite is comprised of La Liga (52.4%), Ligue 1 (50.2%), Serie A (49.2%) and the Bundesliga (48.8%).
Interestingly, Jacobs notes how Liverpool are now “statistically speaking, Europe’s second-best team at throw-ins.”
“Liverpool retained possession from throws under pressure 68.4 percent of the time last season, with only two-time Danish champions FC Midtjylland (70.2%) ahead of them,” he explained.
“It’s no coincidence, of course, that both clubs have the same dedicated throw-in coach, Thomas Gronnemark.”
Gronnemark’s impact is “nothing short of astonishing in such a short space of time,” Jacobs attests, with the difference in Liverpool’s success from throw-ins from 2017/18 to 2018/19 evidence of this.
The season before Gronnemark’s arrival in 2018, Liverpool retained possession from throw-ins under pressure just 45.4 percent of the time, with only Swansea (43.8%) and Huddersfield (42.1%) worse in the English top flight.
“They also allowed opposing sides to win the ball at an above-average rate of 51.8 percent,” he added.
This has improved by 23 percent under Gronnemark’s tutelage, with the Reds going from the Premier League‘s third-worst to the best.
Jacobs argued that added time in possession should not be the focus, but instead Gronnemark’s view of “fast and clever throws.”
“Clever throws can involve players switching sides to deliver, or unexpected movement and trajectories,” he continued.
“The most creative, and often flatter, the better.
“Fast throws, meanwhile, are important because they don’t allow defending teams to take shape.
“The optimal time to take one is about five seconds after the ball goes out of play.
“When thrown less than 15 metres, the overall chances of retaining possession are are 66.9 percent; this drops to 49.6 percent once 10 seconds have elapsed.”
While Jacobs’ conclusion is more football-wide, that he resolves that a drastic change of the ruling is not required, but more so a change of approach from clubs, is testament to Gronnemark’s work at Liverpool.
Watching the Reds at throw-ins, and notably the speed with which they take them and the movement of players to receive the ball—particularly, in this case, Roberto Firmino—clearly shows how their outlook has changed.
The club have now given the Dane a new one-year contract, which proves the faith Klopp has that his methods are working.