Liverpool's Sadio Mane (second right) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game during the Premier League match at Villa Park. (Nick Potts/PA Wire/PA Images)

How “significant pain” that “took us to the brink” in pre-season led Liverpool to the title

Andy Robertson has outlined the huge impact surfer Sebastian Steudtner had on the Liverpool squad last year, mentally improving them during a pre-season camp.

Robertson has been one of the Reds’ most in-form players so far this season, during an injury-plagued but largely positive start to a strange campaign.

Liverpool feel almost untouchable at times currently and their unbeaten home run in the league now stands at 62 – just one short of the club record set under Bob Paisley between 1978 and 1981.

Even when behind, such as in the recent visit of Sheffield United, there is a belief throughout the squad that they can fight back for victory.

This inner faith that exists amongst Jurgen Klopp and his players could be traced back to a pre-season exercise that took place in the summer of 2019, certainly in Robertson’s eyes.

During their time in Evian in the lead up to the 2019/20 season, Klopp called upon the services of his compatriot Steudtner, who is one of the world’s leading big-wave surfers.

Writing in his new book, ‘Robbo: Now You’re Gonna Believe Us: Our Year, My Story‘, Robertson explained exactly what Steudtner had been brought in to do:

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates with team-mate Andy Robertson (L) after scoring the winning fourth goal, his hat-trick, from a penalty-kick to make the score 4-3 during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“For those outside the club who couldn’t get their heads around the entirely logical idea of us using a throw-in coach to improve our technique in that area, god knows what they would have made of the thought that a league title bid could be given added impetus by an entire squad being forced underwater.

“Never mind marginal gains, this was significant pain and the mastermind behind it was a German surfer who none of us had heard of before Jurgen introduced him to us.

“Having spent a couple of hours in the pool with him, I can guarantee that we won’t ever forget him.

“Like Thomas Gronnemark, who was brought in to give us something extra at throw-ins, Sebastian Steudtner was viewed by the gaffer as someone who could help out our breathing technique and our mental durability. He made us suffer.

“He made us crave oxygen like we’d never craved it before. But by taking us to the brink, he also underlined how much we had to give and how far we could go.

“There was method to this madness and we would only come to realise just how much in the weeks and months that followed.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the suffering was all worthwhile.”

Liverpool’s flying left-back revealed that the aim was to deal with “extreme situations and extreme pressure” and that “by the end, some of the lads were clocking up almost three minutes,” having managed far less initially.

Robertson admits it was “incredible to see the difference that your mind can make,” concluding that “there’s no doubt that subconsciously it definitely helped us.”

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 26, 2019: Liverpool's Andy Robertson celebrates after his side's fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 4-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Scot pinpoints the 4-0 win at Leicester on Boxing Day as the perfect example of Steudtner’s methods paying off, at a time when the Reds had only just returned from winning the Club World Cup in Qatar.

He is convinced that going through the hell of staying underwater for an uncomfortable amount of time almost made the players feel invincible, making “stuff like fixture congestion and fatigue a little bit easier.”

There are so many other games that stand out in terms of Liverpool’s mental resolve coming to the fore, such as the last-gasp wins at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, and a similarly dramatic late triumph at home to Leicester.

It is fascinating to hear Robertson speak about how positive the experience with Steudtner was, especially when some outside the club were mocking it.

Liverpool may be the best footballing side in the country at the moment, but they are arguably the most intelligent, forward-thinking, too.

The marginal gains they have made from using individuals such as Steudtner and Gronnemark has paid off handsomely, and it is all part of Klopp’s masterplan.

* ‘Robbo – Now You’re Gonna Believe Us’ is available from the official LFC store, Amazon and all good bookshops. ebook also available, audiobook available soon.