Anfield Watch have spoken to Liverpool throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark on a variety of topics. Here is part one of the two-part interview with the Dane.
Well, first of all then, I guess, how are you coping during the lockdown and how have you been keeping busy?
TG: Yeah, I’ve been pretty busy, not with throw-in coaching, but I’ve been reading some books. I also am making a new home page called thomasgrønnemark.com with my throw-in coaching future books and online courses and so on. I’m also writing in my book about the long, the fast, and clever throw-ins. I don’t know when it’ll be published, if it’s one year or five years, so it’s also like a strategy from me because, yeah, it could also be stupid to publish too early.
I’ve also been doing like a little bit of online coaching with some players from all around the world, and that’s the big advantage here with all the media, the videos. The phones and everything, it’s pretty easy to do some online coaching.
There are some people who are contacting me and asking for help to make better throw-ins, and that’s primarily players. So, I have been pretty busy even though I wish that the football season would continue again, but let’s see what happens.
We also miss the thrill of football, so hopefully it’s not too long before we see a return. You said that you’ve been keeping in touch with players from all around the world. Have you spoken to many of the Liverpool players and are you working with them during this period of self-isolation?
TG: No, I haven’t really worked with the Liverpool players here. I think that everybody’s waiting for the big red button to be pushed regarding the Premier League season, if we’re going to play at all or not, but I haven’t been doing anything with the Liverpool players.
But, let’s see, if we play more in this season, then yeah, perhaps I’ll come to the club or something like that. But, let’s see about that. I had been to the club for like six, seven weeks this season. I also had, like, six, seven weeks last season too. And then, I’ve been analysing all the games with throw-in analysis and sending it back again to Jürgen and the other staff. So, I’ve been working pretty much with the team, yeah.
You’ve been been working with Liverpool for a couple of years now. How would you sum up the atmosphere when you’ve been in and around the club and working with the players?
TG: I think, first of all, of course, it’s 100% serious. It’s like a world class environment where people are getting the best out of everyone. And, how can you do that? For me, one of the big secrets behind the success of Liverpool the last seasons here is that people are really willing to help each other. It’s not about, “I have to be the best;” it’s about, “We have to be the best.”
So, for me, I think that people are really willing to help each other. And, it doesn’t really matter if it’s like a competitor or it doesn’t really matter if it’s like a member of staff from another department of Liverpool, people are really open-minded, people are trying to get the best out of everybody. And, that’s also the reason why in my throw-in coaching, it’s not about me. It’s about the players, it’s about the staff, Jürgen, the coaches, the physical coaches, the analysis people, and everything.
I just feel that people are very open-minded, people are talking with each other, and also like having fun. And, I think that’s a really fantastic atmosphere in Liverpool FC – you can go from having fun together to being 100% focused and that’s really, really hard – but this balance at Liverpool is perfect. Because if you’re having too much fun, you’ll never reach your top level, and if you’re too serious all the time, people are angry at each other all the time.
So the balance between the fun, the human part and then the real, like, world class serious play, that’s really good in Liverpool. A big part of that work culture or work environment is, of course, also Jürgen Klopp, so yeah, he’s a fantastic manager.
Talk us through just a normal day in the life of you at Melwood on a typical training day?
TG: I have been doing a lot of video analyses of the games. So, perhaps I’ve been analysing 10 games before I arrive at Melwood. And, of course, after each of these 10 games, I’ve been sending analyses. But, when I arrive at Melwood, then I know exactly what we have to improve with throw-ins.
For example, let’s say—normally, I have three training days at Melwood and then I’m going home after that. Let’s say we have to train at 11 o’clock, perhaps I come in to Melwood at nine o’clock and I’m speaking with Jürgen and the other coaches and so on and then like saying what is my plan, what is my focus this week. And then, we’re looking at the general training plan. Then, I’m saying, “Can I have 20 minutes today or can I have 45 minutes? Perhaps I can have like two x20 minutes,” and then we are like agreeing on what I would do in the next days. From my point of view and also the other coaches, it’s also about intensity.
Let’s say the team has been playing on Sunday and I’m having my first training day on a Monday, you know, of course, it’s a lot about intensity. Because I can like do five versus five interval games with a narrow pitch. I’m also looking at what can the intensity be of my throw-in coaching, because it can go from, like, totally low-intensity to match-like intensity.
Then I’m agreeing with Jürgen and the other coaches how much time I have, what I’m going to focus on, perhaps I have some specific analysis about individual players too, and then I’m doing my training. A normal training day is like a warm-up with the team – it could be like 15, 20 minutes or so.
It’s really different from time to time how many players I’m coaching. Sometimes it’s only the fullback group with, for example, four, five, or six players who are either playing fullback or potentially can play fullback. And, other times it’s a lot of players. It could be like two groups of nine with 20 minutes each. It could also be like, as I mentioned before, five versus five interval games with throw-ins. It could also be 11 versus 11 on a big pitch with throw-ins and focus and it’s like real-match intensity.
Some people think I’m only coaching the fullbacks, but I’m coaching all the players. Not the goalkeepers, but all the players, and the reason why is that if you see a Liverpool match, it’s often like six, seven, or eight players who are taking the throw-ins because often it, for example, Mo Salah is taking the throw-in instead of waiting for Trent because on some occasions, you’ll have better options to do it. And, if you haven’t educated all the players then you’ll have a bad throw-in, so that’s also the reason why I’m coaching all the players. The players are able to throw further, but also more precisely.
The most important thing is that the players have the understanding of the throw-in situation. So, when to throw fast because sometimes it’s good to throw quickly, but also when to wait because on some occasions it can be really bad to throw quickly if you’re throwing the ball into a pressure zone.
🗣"Robbo improved really fast – Trent took a little bit more time, but like after six months, Trent came to a fantastic level. For me, Robbo and Trent are the best two fullbacks with throw-ins in the world."
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) April 30, 2020
It’s also things like how can we create space, where is the space created. I’m working with three different zones with approximately 50 different throw-in tools.
So, we try, for example, to create some space in the near area, then we know that we are covered there, then we can create space in other parts of the pitch. It’s more like throw-in intelligence because the players themselves also like putting their creativity and fantasy into the different throw-in solutions.
I also like having individual things we’re doing with the players because some players are really good at different things. Some players are fast; some players are physically strong, and with these kinds of abilities, you’re can do different throw-in stuff with them. That’s how training in Liverpool FC works.
I’m often also doing talks for—often for the coaches, but also sometimes for the players and sometimes it can be like a 45-minute talk for the coaches, but also sometimes it can also be like a 10 or 15-minute talk for the players so they can see on video what we are doing good and when we could be doing things a little bit better. So, yeah, that’s all in all how I’m coaching at Melwood.