Manchester City and Liverpool kicked-off the new Premier League campaign expecting to be at the forefront of the battle for this season’s title.
City recovered from a 10-point deficit last term to deservedly overhaul Liverpool on the run-in and secure their second successive league championship.
Both clubs had a busy summer, undertaking intensive training and a schedule of warm-up matches designed to have them ready for their opening fixtures.
City boss Pep Guardiola and Reds counterpart Jurgen Klopp have different ways of working, but both are 100 percent confident that their methods deliver success.
Read on as we look at how both managers prepared their teams for the 2019/20 Premier League season.
Attention to detail the key for Guardiola
Guardiola introduced a strict fitness regime at City when he took over back in 2016 and he hasn’t deviated from the plan since then.
The Spaniard changed the squad’s diet, banned pizza at the club and forces players to train away from the first team if they don’t stick to the manager’s weight guidelines.
Former City full-back, Gael Clichy, says Guardiola leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of success and has no time for players who don’t adhere to his rules.
“Everything has been covered by Guardiola,” Clichy said. “On the field, outside the field, every detail counts.
“For example, you often hear managers say being healthy is really important, but with him, if you’re weight is too high, you’re not training with the team.
“That is the first thing, and you can hear it a lot, but for my part it’s the first time any manager has really done it.”
“He cut out some juice and of course pizza and all the heavy food is not allowed. It’s a normal thing, but some people think ‘that’s normal, it should be like this’.”
“But in truth, it’s not always like this and I know because I’ve been playing football for a long time. It’s really refreshing and very exciting.”
From weight guidelines to pre-workout supplementation to post-training recovery, Guardiola has set the highest standards for players looking to step out on the Etihad pitch with the results – back to back league titles – speaking for themselves.
Intensive sessions give City an edge
A major feature of City’s pre-season is work with the ball. Retaining the ball is a huge part of the team’s style of play and successive titles prove that Guardiola’s methods are paying dividends.
City focus a lot on ‘rondos’ – a training workout drill that features a circle of players with the ball and one or two in the middle trying to win it back.
Players fire the ball around at speed with the aim of reaching 30 touches without the ones in the middle making an interception.
The drill improves technique and attunes players, across all positions in the team, to use the ball to beat the opposition rather than dribbling around them.
Guardiola also implements a flexible version of a 4v4 drill that features three ‘floating’ players who alternate between the side that has possession.
When one team loses the ball they immediately press to win it back, helping both sides understand the importance of ball retention.
The drill is used to help establish in-game scenarios where City can lure their opposition into exposing areas of the pitch they can exploit.
“The secret is to overload one side of the pitch so the opponent must tilt its own defense to cope,” Guardiola says in Pep Confidential.
“When you’ve done that, we attack and score from the other side. That’s why you have to pass the ball with a clear intention. Draw in the opponent, then hit them with the sucker punch.”
Klopp taking an individual approach
The Liverpool boss has previously come in for criticism for his pre-season training methods, but it appears he is gradually evolving his style.
A former coach in the Wales national team set-up, Raymond Verheijen, has blasted Klopp for having his players to do ‘too much, too soon’ and his views seem to have sparked a change in tack.
Liverpool returned to training four days later than in 2018, with the club’s participation in last season’s Champions League final extending their campaign to early June.
Some players were given even more time off due to their involvement in international tournaments such as the Africa Cup of Nations and Copa America.
To ensure burnout doesn’t become a factor this term, Liverpool’s players were put on individual training plans designed to manage their fitness more effectively ahead of the new Premier League season.
These differed dependent on how much rest each player managed to fit in to what is becoming an increasingly packed football schedule.
An example of the need for Klopp to change was the lack of form shown by forward Mohamed Salah at the start of last season.
The Egyptian suffered a bad shoulder injury in the 2018 Champions League final, but still played for Egypt in the World Cup despite not being fully fit.
Salah returned to pre-season training with the rest of his teammates and his lack of fitness was clear to see as he went on to score just three goals in his first 11 games last term.
It remains to be seen whether Klopp’s adjustment of his pre-season training has the desired effect over the course of a busy campaign, particularly with Guardiola’s methods proving so effective during his managerial career.