“Milly’s rondo” and the finer details of Liverpool’s quest to “conquer the ball”

Pepijn Lijnders has explained the importance of Liverpool’s training processes, and how James Milner inspired an exercise.

Since being promoted to Melwood prior to Brendan Rodgers’ departure in 2015 to act as the bridge between the first team and the academy, Lijnders has since flourished under Jurgen Klopp‘s tutelage having become the German’s No. 2.

Lijnders, who had a brief spell in charge of Dutch side NEC Nijmegen in 2018, plays a key role alongside Klopp and Peter Krawietz in setting the foundations for the relentless Liverpool machine – all of which unfolds with plenty of shouting and purposeful decision making.

In an interview with the Guardian, the Dutchman spoke of the importance of the role each coach has and how the “mentality to conquer the ball” is intertwined in all of the Reds’ training ground exercises.

“Jurgen is the leader and face of the team, the one who defines the character and who stimulates everyone,” Lijnders explained.

“Pete [Peter Krawietz] is responsible for the analysis and prepares everything in regards to videos which are shown to the players. I’m responsible for the training process.

“Together we decide what kind of aspects we want to develop for the team and then I create the exercises. It’s quite simple; it’s just about the continuing stimulation of our mentality to conquer the ball as quick and as high up the pitch as possible.

“That element comes back in every exercise. We as staff always try to find ways so the players can be more spontaneous and more creative.

MADRID, SPAIN - Friday, May 31, 2019: Liverpool's James Milner during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. (Pic by Handout/UEFA)

“The five-v-two rondo is a good example. It’s actually called Milly’s rondo now after I got inspired by James Milner because he always intercepted the ball within the first few passes.

“He was really quick and brought the focus of the rondo to another level. I was like: ‘How can I come up with a rule that everyone will execute with his kind of intensity?’

“So I gave an extra incentive for the two players in the middle if they would intervene within the first six passes. So I told Milly: ‘This is your idea!’ The other players loved it.”

Lijnders previously spoke passionately about Liverpool’s identity being “intensity” and since Klopp walked through the doors at Anfield in 2015, it has been the club’s trademark.

MADRID, SPAIN - SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp and his back room staff celebrate as they lift the European Cup following a 2-0 victory in the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda) Pepijn Lijnders

The Dutchman’s role within the set up is to ensure every player buys into that very mentality not just “with the head, but with the heart.”

“The players first have to understand the importance of counterpressing to our team,” he continued.

“They have to feel it, not with the head, but with the heart. They start the exercise with the idea to keep the ball, but in the event of losing it they have to be directly on top of things.

“When a team lose the ball in training, you will hear me, Jürgen or Pete screaming: ‘Go! Get it back! Don’t stop!’ It’s so loud they’ll even hear that in Manchester,” he joked.

“They have to understand why it’s so important. That power and emotion is our game. Because our identity is intensity.

“That comes back in every drill. And that’s what I like about coaching: that you can stimulate certain common behaviour and create a lot by specific team training. That’s what I live for.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 24, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The passion Lijnders exudes and the fine details he looks for to hand Liverpool even the slightest of advantages is unparalleled and it is certainly interesting to see the Dutchman speak openly and in-depth about his role.

You need only to look at his preparation to source and brief an opponent, Benfica B, to mirror Tottenham‘s tactics for a friendly encounter in Marbella one week prior to Liverpool’s ultimate triumph in Madrid to gain even the slightest of appreciation for his role in the side.

While the departure of Zeljko Buvac as Klopp’s No. 2 did concern many, Lijnders quickly tempered any fears as he has since gone on to be just as influential.