The Jurgen Klopp effect: Liverpool FC injury analysis
Much has been made over the past few months about the amount of injuries Liverpool’s playing squad have suffered.
The suggestion in the press is that, since the celebrated German manager Jurgen Klopp took over at Anfield in October 2015, injuries to Liverpool players have increased – particularly hamstring injuries.
The general consensus among football pundits and reporters is that Klopp’s favoured high-intensity pressing game – known as ‘gegenpressing’ – is taking its toll on Liverpool players, who are putting too much stress on their bodies in training and during games.
This all came to a head over the Christmas and New Year period, as the high volume of matches led to lots of Liverpool players succumbing to injury.
Indeed, over November, December and early January a total of 11 first team players suffered an injury that kept them out of a match. Eight of these injuries were hamstring injuries: Enrique, Coutinho, Sturridge, Lovren, Origi, Skrtel, Ibe and Rossiter.
It’s easy to look at these raw stats and conclude that there is something of an injury crisis at Liverpool, but is this really the case? And if so, is the cause of it really Jurgen Klopp’s playing style?
As personal injury specialists, we here at CL Legal have a professional interest in these kinds of things, so we decided to collate Liverpool FC’s injury data for the past six-and-a-half seasons (going back to the 2009/10 season when Rafa Benitez was still in charge) to get a fuller picture of exactly what is going on.
First of all, no study into Liverpool’s injury record can ignore the case of Daniel Sturridge.
Since joining Liverpool three years ago the striker has suffered a total of 18 different injuries – which amount to a total of 614 days out injured.
There’s an excellent article on Sturridge’s different injuries over on the BBC website.
While Jurgen Klopp obviously can’t be blamed for Daniel Sturridge’s injury woes, can the same be said about the rest of Liverpool’s injured players?
Liverpool injuries per season
To begin analysing Jurgen Klopp’s impact on Liverpool’s injuries, we first need to chart the amount of injuries Liverpool suffer each season on average.
Below is the total amount of injuries each season since the start of the 2009/10 season:
As we can see from the graph above, despite only being in charge for five months this season, Jurgen Klopp is well on course for the worst Liverpool season in terms of injuries over the past seven seasons.
However, Liverpool suffered seven injuries this season before the arrival of Jurgen Klopp – so the German can only really be accused of being responsible for 17 injuries this season. This would still be quite a high number judging by the figures above – particularly considering there are still three months of the 2015/16 season to go.
But how many more injuries can Liverpool expect to suffer this season? We’ve gone through the data to work out how many injuries Liverpool historically suffer on average each month:
Average injuries per month
Looking at the data, it’s clear that Jurgen Klopp’s arrival coincided with what is traditionally the most common time for Liverpool players to get injured – from Autumn through to Winter when the season really gets going.
If the trend of the last six seasons is to continue, then the above averages also suggest that Liverpool will suffer approximately 5-6 more injuries this season (over the rest of February, March, April and May) – which will put the total injuries this season under Klopp to around 22.
That would put this season on a par with the 2012/11, 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons – and well under last seasons high watermark of 33 injuries.
So the question is, Did Jurgen Klopp really cause an injury crisis at Liverpool?
Hamstring injuries each season
The above data my exonerate Jurgen Klopp in general for Liverpool’s injuries, but the area that has been most in question is the perceived high rate of hamstring injuries he has presided over this season.
The main argument here is that Klopp’s famous, high intensity ‘gegenpressing’ approach to football is putting his players’ bodies under too much stress – which is resulting in lengthy lay-off’s caused by hamstring injuries and ultimately affecting Liverpool’s season.
Below is the total number of hamstring injuries suffered by Liverpool players in each of the last six-and-a-half seasons:
Well, that’s pretty conclusive.
So far this season Liverpool have suffered as many hamstring injuries as in the previous three seasons combined.
To put it another way, 32% of all of the hamstring injuries suffered by Liverpool players over the past six-and-a-half seasons have occurred this season.
There was only one hamstring injury this season that happened before Klopp took over (Christian Benteke’s injury in September).
Is Jurgen Klopp really to blame?
The style of play Jurgen Klopp favours is well documented. He had great success in Germany with Borussia Dortmund playing a high-intensity, high tempo game of closing down and winning the ball back high up the pitch.
Indeed, when Liverpool played Manchester City back in November – at the early stage of Klopp’s tenure – their ten outfield players ran an average of 1.3 miles more than their City counterparts, and maintained a higher average speed.
Liverpool players were working harder, running faster and covering more ground. The fact they won that game at the Etihad 4-1 would suggest Klopp had the right idea – but that early promise has been undone by losing key players to hamstring injuries throughout the winter months.
But is Klopp to blame for this? Or is the apparent lack of fitness and conditioning of the players before Klopp arrived to blame?
We don’t know the answer to this, so we’ve put together the below poll to get your opinion on it: