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Why Pep Lijnders joked he would ‘punch players in the face’ at Liverpool training

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Liverpool underwent a rejuvenation over the summer, and Liverpool’s assistant manager, Pep Lijnders, had some alternative methods to turn things around.

While Jurgen Klopp has gradually been worn down by years of the Premier League, his assistant coach is still buoyant and always seems to have a smile on, when we’re winning anyway.

After a disappointing 2022/23 campaign, in which Liverpool finished fifth, 22 points behind winners Man City, Lijnders was determined to make sure the Reds had the right attitude for the new season.

“I said as a joke that if anyone was negative in this building I would punch them in the face,” Lijnders told press, including the Times.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 26, 2023: Liverpool's first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This didn’t apply just to players either. “You are a product of your own environment,” Lijnders added.

“If you had three or four negative guys [among the coaches], everyone would be negative. If you have positive guys, the opposite.”

The remark was made tongue in cheek, but there was logic to it. The Dutchman went on to emphasise how vital it is for the squad to be together and everyone to feel a part of things.

He added: “Everybody searches for new targets or young players have to step up, like Curtis (Jones), Trent (Alexander-Arnold) and Ibou (Konate).

“When young players feel they have to do more, they feel more and more that it becomes their team. That’s what you need. That energises everyone. I really believe that the difference is made on the training pitch.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 20, 2023: Liverpool's Curtis Jones celebrates after scoring the second goal, the club's 500th in the competition, during the Football League Cup Quarter-Final match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“The attitude of the boys and the quality of the sessions — that combination makes a big difference.”

Fresh energy in the form of Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch has helped transform Liverpool’s midfield, while Wataru Endo has also grown into his role as senior statesman.

Speaking to Liverpoolfc.com, Jones highlighted the team spirit within the camp, saying: “I’m sat here with Harvey (Elliott), who is one of my best mates.

“But, I could be sat here with Trent, Dom, Cody (Gakpo), Ryan, Kostas (Tsimikas) – I could name near-enough the whole team as a friend in different ways.”

The never-say-die mentality has been evident on the pitch, with the Reds picking up 19 points after falling behind in a game, six more than any other team in the Premier League.