Richard Buxton: Throw-in coach Gronnemark boosts Liverpool's stats
Long-throw specialist boosts Liverpool statistics and transforms mentality about set-piece scenarios
Liverpool have long prided themselves on being a club who do things differently.
But, even by their standards, eyebrows were raised when Juergen Klopp sought the expertise of Thomas Gronnemark as a dedicated throw-in coach at the beginning of last season.
The former Danish athlete's 15-year devotion to an often overlooked aspect of in-game strategy had already led to several consultancy roles with various clubs.
Yet it was the European champions' approach that underlined how attitudes are shifting on the subject.
"People didn't really care about if throw-ins were lost or not," Gronnemark explained in an exclusive interview with The New Paper.
"Of course they preferred if they were won or kept possession but it was also like 'okay if we keep this it's good but, if we lose it, it's just a throw-in'.
"However, that is starting to change now, not only with my work especially in Liverpool, but also with all the analysis and new numbers.
"Normally, there are between 40 and 60 throw-ins in a match. According to my numbers, most teams lose the ball in more than 50 per cent of the occasions when they have a throw-in under pressure, when all their players are marked.
"If you have the ball, you can score a goal and, if you lose the ball, there's a chance of the opponents scoring.
"So, it's so important, but it's changing slowly because people are getting aware of how important it is."
Gronnemark, who holds the Guinness World Record for the longest throw-in (51.33m), came to Klopp's attention after the Reds' 2018 Champions League final loss to Real Madrid when his work was profiled by the German newspaper Bild.
His techniques have already seen a marked improvement at Anfield. The English Premier League leaders were ranked as the third-worst team from throw-ins before the 43-year-old's arrival, but finished last season as its most successful with 68.4 per cent leading to shots at goal.
That transformation also led to Liverpool becoming more street-wise about set-play scenarios and embracing the key aspects of his methodology behind the "long, fast and clever" throws.
"One of the first things I said when we came to the club is that we have to educate the ball boys and the ball girls because it's an important thing surrounding the throw-ins," revealed Gronnemark.
"This is also another benefit that has been brought onto other set-pieces. The more space you often create, the opponent hasn't really got the attention like they should have, like in the Barcelona game.
"It's just a tiny bit of the throw-in philosophy that has been brought on to other set-pieces. I'm turning every stone around to see if we can benefit from something."
Liverpool's fullbacks have reaped the greatest rewards of Gronnemark's teachings, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson both increasing their throw-in range.
Joe Gomez's impressive reach of 37.2m, however, is often underappreciated in contrast to his teammates.
"The challenge with Liverpool is that we're not doing so many long throw-ins towards the opponents' goal, so we're not really using his abilities at Liverpool," admitted Gronnemark.
"Of course we all saw the throw-in assist in the match between England and Croatia. But, in general, it's important for fullbacks to have a throw-in as long as possible because the longer throw-in you have, the greater throw-in area you have.
"I'll also say that Robbo and Trent also have really world-class throw-ins.
"But, of course, they're not throwing as far as Joe Gomez, but it's more of seeing the space we create and positions.
"I'm really proud of the improvement the players have made."