Liverpool can win a third trophy of the 2021/22 season when they face off with Real Madrid for the Champions League final on 28 May.
While they just fell short in their pursuit of the Premier League and subsequently the historic quadruple, the prospect of finishing the season as league runners up, again with 90+ points, having potentially won every available cup is nothing short of spectacular.
Of course, though, that remains a big if. And getting over the line against Real on Saturday will be no easy task. A combination of incredible talent, storied history and a freakish ability to forge comebacks when seemingly dead and buried is what has summarised Los Blancos’ route to the final.
The Reds are well and truly underway with their preparations for Saturday’s heavyweight clash in Paris, with Jurgen Klopp’s side training in Liverpool as usual before they head out for the game.
In and among the usual throws of training, though, was a rather strange sight involving Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Calm down, Liverpool fans, he isn’t injured. Pictured in full training ahead of the game, Alexander-Arnold was spotted wearing a bizarre and equally scary looking contraption on his head.
With a bag tied around his waist, the England right back was wearing a helmet of wires and sensors that fed down into the bag. It looked like he was juggling his training with shooting CGI for a blockbuster action film.
At a glance, this looks like mightily confusing stuff. And in truth, it is. Not one for the football purists who loved the simpler times.
What Alexander-Arnold was wearing is a brain censor, developed by a company called neuro11, who have actually been working with Klopp’s squad since before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Explained in an interview with The Athletic, neuro11 is a neuroscience start-up created by Dr Niklas Hauser and his business partner Patrick Hantschke, the latter being a former semi-professional footballer.
After studying for a Masters in neuroscience and a PhD in psychology and neuroscience, Hauser teamed up with Hantschke after the latter had retired from football aged 27, with the pair going into the business of sports psychology, which only continues to increase in importance within football.
Klopp has created a squad with an almost unbreakable bond and mentality. But to help his players get an even better understanding of their body and improve on the pitch, neuro11 have been using the brain censor equipment in order to improve the output of players’ set-pieces.
“By attaching electrodes to the head we can measure brain states.
“Both during and after training we analyse the data and give feedback, finding out what parameters of his procedure truly help him to get into ‘the zone’,” Says Hausler, explaining the unusual equipment.
Because the electrodes are so sensitive, they are currently only able to use the incredibly innovative technology to analyse set-pieces, as players must be still at the start of the movement.
Alexander-Arnold and other Liverpool players have been using the equipment in previous months in order to monitor their brain activity while taking set-pieces on the training ground, in order to understand the psychology and, essentially, reduce the pressure when taking them in games.
“I look into every set-piece in every Liverpool game in high detail. That’s our job. There have been some good moments so far this season but it’s definitely not perfect,” Explained Hausler.
“Any team can train free-kicks but what we do is put the mental part on top of that. It’s an add-on to make it more efficient and hopefully get better results.”
He further explained – in broader terms to not expose all of their secrets – that they analyse the data collected to understand players’ brain activity and find how and where they ‘zone in’ to make their set pieces so good.
“Step by step we try to fine-tune it so in the end, the player has a mental tool so it doesn’t matter whether it’s a free-kick in training or a free-kick in the 93rd minute of the Champions League final, you know what you should focus on and you don’t get disorientated.”
Considering just how good Alexander-Arnold continues to be when it comes to testing goalkeepers with viciously whipped free-kicks, it’s fair to assume there is very reasonable method to the madness.
Incredibly complexed stuff, but a process that will only continue to be refined and become a regular occurrence across all of football’s top sides as they look to perfect and control every detail possible within a game.
Keep an eye out for Liverpool’s set piece deliveries on Saturday evening. They will be hoping it can prove the difference and help them to a seventh Champions League title.