In Jurgen Klopp’s mind, it looked like witchcraft. He thought there was a witch in the building. A hoodoo, surely.
The Liverpool boss had a Premier League game at Crystal Palace to prepare for but, every day, another member of his already depleted squad fell.
Some, of course, that he knew. Ibrahima Konaté injured his knee in pre-season. Thiago and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all ruled out before the start of the campaign. Diogo Jota nursed an old hamstring injury in Thailand.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been stunned by his side’s recent injuries.
Klopp has already lost several of his players as his side have only played three games
And then came the others. Joel Matip missed training on the Friday before the Crystal Palace game with a groin problem. Joe Gomez was just fit enough to be a substitute. Same for Jordan Henderson. Roberto Firmino couldn’t even make the bench.
A week later, with a trip to Old Trafford tomorrow, Firmino is fit and available. Henderson is fine. Klopp says Joe Gomez will start. He even hosted Naby Keita. There are still a bunch more but he must feel like the curse has lifted slightly.
The Reds aren’t the only club feeling the pain. Liverpool neighbors Everton are without seven key players, including Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Abdoulaye Doucoure. Leeds also started the season without several crucial names while Patrick Bamford limped off with injury last weekend.
We only have two sets and the treatment rooms are full. Much of it, experts say, depends on timing. Last season ended late, this one started early. Add in those lucrative pre-season tours around the world and, before you know it, trouble is brewing.
Liverpool and Klopp haven’t had much free time this summer after a busy season
Zone7 technology, created by the Silicon Valley-based artificial intelligence company, is used by clubs such as Liverpool, Leeds, Rangers and Hull to track the fitness of their players. They access data from thousands of past injuries to predict when they are likely to occur and thus prevent them.
“More clubs participated at the end of May last season than usual, both in regular season matches and European tournaments,” Zone7 performance director Rich Buchanan said on Sunday. at the Mail.
“It means more players have started pre-season training later due to the need for sufficient mental and physical rest.” This has condensed the pre-season period for many due to scheduling issues this season.
“The short pre-season has meant players generally have less time to develop their tolerance for the physical demands required at the highest levels of club football. This impact was further compounded by the hosting of the UEFA European Championship last summer.
“Another factor is the commercially oriented and extended pre-season programmes, which have seen a resurgence following the Covid-induced break and have further exacerbated the reduction in training time.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been struggling with injuries lately
“Players spent a lot of time traveling across multiple time zones and competing in different conditions. This, in turn, hampered their ability to recover from the circadian rhythm [body clock] disturbances and benefit from the exposure and pace of training.
“This wave of injuries, however, is probably not a new phenomenon. We generally see an increase in injury risk early in the competitive season. To mitigate this, clubs will try to manage each player’s workload while simultaneously balancing schedule demands and team training needs.
Liverpool entered the season on the back of a campaign that saw them fight, to the finish, in all four competitions – and with a core of players.
Last season in the Premier League, nine outfield players logged at least 2,300 minutes. No other club had more than seven. All other Big Six clubs had five, except Chelsea, which had three.
Eight of those nine outfield players have started at least 40 games in all competitions. The only one who didn’t, Jota, started 39. Virgil van Dijk started 51.
Liverpool picked up two points in the first two games of the Premier League season
“What drove last season to try to take four trophies away from players,” asks Ben Dinnery, injury analyst at Premier Injuries. “The physical demands of putting your body through two or three times a week has had an impact, and we are seeing some slightly jaded players starting the season.
They finished the season late, started this one a bit earlier, and you had those Nations League games in between. It’s not just the physical demands, but the psychological effort to prepare.
Dinnery has a theory, however. Premier Injuries’ analysis of Liverpool’s injury data over recent seasons shows, overall, that their players are not out for too long. And it is for this reason that such a large group of players could feature so frequently.
In the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, around 77-78% of injured Liverpool players returned in five games or less. Last season, their first use of Zone7 technology to spot injury patterns and predict when problems will arise, saw that figure jump to 86%.
Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has struggled with injuries throughout his career
Last season, injured Liverpool players returned to action in an average of 26.4 days. The previous season’s figure was 42.5, although that included long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. Even so, the previous season was still at 31.5 days.
Zone7’s technology analyzes everything from match and training data to a player’s strength, sleep and stress levels to flag when they are at risk. When they are, he pings an app with Liverpool staff, either Klopp or Dr Andreas Schlumberger, the club’s head of recovery and performance – and a decision has to be made. Is it better then for Gomez to start on the bench against Palace to be able to start at Old Trafford in optimal conditions?
Dinnery thinks that with the rise of this type of technology, we could see an increase in injuries, with more players missing games, but they will come back much faster. Miss the odd game here instead of risking missing six, seven or eight down the line.
Klopp has repeatedly ruled out Liverpool’s chances of signing a new central midfielder
“They’re Premier League veterans – it’s not just a few people from Silicon Valley running around with spreadsheets,” Zone7 founder Tal Brown told The Daily Telegraph in May.
Last season, Liverpool reported 39 injuries and lost 968 days, down from the previous campaign’s total of 1,722. Newcastle, meanwhile, suffered 29 injuries but lost 1,168 days.
In a season like this, Champions League fixtures will soon be on a weekly basis and a World Cup in winter, when clubs typically see injury spikes, player management and fitness have rarely been so crucial.
Last week, for Klopp, it may have felt like a curse. In the long run, the hope is that it should be a blessing.