How are Premier League players staying fit?

Leave a comment

How are Premier League players staying fit during the coronavirus pandemic?

From Zoom team workouts to Jose Mourinho apologizing for putting Tanguy Ndombele through his paces at a local park, all 20 Premier League clubs have their own way of keeping players sharp during the current suspension. It’s a two-way street as players themselves have to resist the urge we all have right now of reaching for the candy and chips three times an hour.

It’s tough staying in top shape from home. But hey, of course, there’s got to be an app for that. And now there is: Apollo V2.

It has become the go-to tool for multiple Premier League clubs as it collects data from players and feeds it back to clubs immediately, while coaches and medical staff can send video messages, make notes and design specific sessions for players remotely.

From assigning a tactical video session to be watched by the entire squad to telling one player to ease off the weights and another to step up his squats, the creator behind this system has seen a huge surge in interest in recent weeks.

Dave Hancock, the former head physiotherapist at Leeds United and Chelsea in England who most recently worked for the New York Knicks in the NBA, has created a tool which seems perfectly suited for the current situation PL clubs and players find themselves in. Hancock and Tony Strudwick (the former head of performance for Manchester United who is now at Sheffield Wednesday) have taken their experience working at the club and international level with the England national team to design an app which has been endorsed by Liverpool’s James Milner and ex-Chelsea star Joe Cole. It is designed with players, coaches and medical staff at its core.

It has taken three years and close to $4 million of investment for Hancock and his team to develop version 2 of the Apollo app, as they wanted something which could do it all. There are other apps which can track strength and conditioning and medical recoveries but none that do that as well as giving coaches a platform to speak to their players and stats being reported back in one place to track players progress. That is why Apollo is so important right now.

“We work with all of the major teams in the major leagues, the Premier League and Championship in England, the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, so we’ve got clients in all of those leagues and obviously we’ve had a lot of interest because of our ability to use our app that is associated with our system,” Hancock, who has worked individually with Kevin Durant and Odell Beckham Jr. during their recent injury rehabs, explained. “The beauty of our system is that you can completely customize what you want it to do. In these circumstances a team can deliver whatever they want to the individual player, whether that is rehab scheduling, strength and conditioning, questionnaires, specific reports, game video to analyze or any other video to analyze.”

Getty Images

The longer the suspension has gone on, the more Premier League players are now preparing themselves mentally and physically for a gruelling mini-preseason in the coming weeks before they can even think about getting back on the pitch. That’s the reality.

Having a system which can keep players in shape before returning to preseason is key. Hancock has seen his app used by the Washington Nationals of the MLB during their offseason and have a huge impact in players buying into it to stay in touch, and in shape, wherever they are in the world.

“I know with some of our other clients, the Washington Nationals, they have a massive offseason. They normally have four or five months off and they have no control on their athletes and what they are doing,” Hancock explained. “What the Nationals were able to do is deliver content to players and also able to see when the players logged in. They are able to track whether they are following the regime or give them advice. It is a two-way thing. I know in this situation that the system can become very useful for clients in delivering what they want to deliver to the athlete on their phone. The phone is the key.”

Southampton’s Shane Long, widely regarded as one of the fastest players in the Premier League, told ProSoccerTalk that players are adapting however they can.

“It’s obviously been different and taken some getting used to but it is about dealing with the situation as best as we can,” Long said. “We’re in regular contact with all the sports science guys who are making sure we keep at it, so there’s been no problem from that perspective. I’ve been quite lucky that I’ve got a decent amount of equipment at home so I’ve just been getting my head down. The club also dropped me round a Wattbike to add to what I already had. That has allowed me to mix things up and keep training fresh.”

AP

That mental aspect and staying connected is a huge part of this, too. Chelsea and USMNT star Christian Pulisic has revealed that he is training but “that doesn’t take up the whole day” and is trying new things and trying to stay energized.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp confirmed something a lot of us can relate with right now: being away from coaches, teammates and friends you are used to seeing every day is tough.

“Everything is different in the moment and we do all different stuff. When we have these training sessions, I could have never imagined I would enjoy it that much but it’s just the moment when I see the boys again and that changes everything – for a minute, for an hour, for two hours, however long the sessions are. The boys are all in good spirits; you feel immediately why you miss them so much, because it’s just an exceptional group.

“You want to be together with them, you want to have them around, you want to be closer to them than you can be. These are the closest moments, apart from exchanging messages with them and asking, ‘How are you?’ and stuff like this. So I enjoy these sessions really a lot. It’s getting worse, the longer it takes. I accept the situation 100 per cent like it is but the longer you don’t see somebody you like, the more it hurts. That’s the situation we are in at the moment.”

Getty Images

Right now players are keeping themselves in shape without knowing when they will next be able to kick a ball around in a competitive 11-v-11 situation. Certain teams are even entering a period of regeneration after pushing their players hard over the last four weeks. They are scaling training down ahead of an expected heavy preseason campaign coming up.

Shane Long’s teammate at Southampton, Jannik Vestergaard, is the tallest player in the Premier League (6-foot 6-inches tall) and his training methods and needs are a lot different to most.

“We’re all getting used to it now. It is what it is,” Vestergaard told ProSoccerTalk. “We just have to get our heads down and work hard. I’ve been training hard at home, pushing myself and making sure I do everything to keep my fitness levels high.”

This is why these tracking systems are so important. Who decides if the fitness levels are high? How can the fitness of 25 players at each PL club currently in 25 separate locations be measured?

Chelsea legend Joe Cole is involved with Apollo V2 and told ProSoccerTalk exactly how it works on a daily basis and how much of an impact it is having.

“It sends out relevant exercises to the players and they send back whether they have done it, they can video themselves doing it so you can keep an eye on them, and also there’s the tactical element of it where players can brush up on their games and have an appraisal, it really brings everything under one blanket. Any club which has this tool now will be two, three, four steps ahead of the game when the season recommences. It is going to be so important during this time,” Cole said.

Asked if this system will be key in prepping players for a new preseason the three-time Premier League winner, who also played for England at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups, was in no doubt how much of advantage this would be.

“100 percent. This situation is obviously unprecedented and unusual for players and managers to deal with. Using the Apollo app will give teams an extra percentage when it comes to preparing,” Cole said. “You will be able to see exactly whether it is through heart rate monitors, any testing kit you are sending out to get results, the boys will send it back and you know exactly what has be done. When you come back for preseason you then know exactly how hard you can push certain players. You could be doing tactical stuff with the team, sending out videos and clips of the game to report on what they did well and get players thinking about the game. It is something I will be using when I eventually step back into the game full time into coaching.”

Getty Images

Even though teams are using this app to help keep their players ticking over, there is a real concern that many will pull up injured if and when the season resumes in the coming weeks and months.

Kevin de Bruyne and others have voiced their concerns about picking up injuries as players at the top level are used to maybe having a few weeks of low-level training a year.

Not a few months then being asked to fight for trophies, promotion and relegation.

“If I was back at Chelsea in the Premier League as the head of that department, the worry would be the injury rates when we come back,” Hancock explained as he talked through past meetings with Jose Mourinho at a coffee shop to discuss the health of players. “Normally, you are looking at six weeks to de-train, scientifically. Most of these guys are so fit that when you have three weeks off in the summer, they don’t really de-train. Most of these athletes now are doing something in the offseason. It is not like in the 90s when they’d go on the drink for three weeks and then literally wouldn’t do anything. That has all gone. This is a very high-end athlete now who are constantly watching what they eat and drink. They realize for the longevity of their careers and contracts, they have to do all of this.

“The problem now is that three weeks of holiday has now been extended for six to eight weeks plus. Possibly. Therefore when they come back they have x-period of time to do a mini preseason. That is then dependent on what the leagues want to do. The quicker they can get these games done and the leagues finished, the better it is for everyone involved. Clubs are in financial situations they have never been in before. The players are the pawns in this because they have got to go and play. If you say to a team you’re going to have two weeks of preseason then play twice a week for six weeks to finish the season, that is a hell of a lot of load you’re putting on these players that are not necessarily going to be in the condition that you want them to be in because you haven’t been able to control it.”

Some of this may sound a little too ‘big brothery’ for most, with Premier League players having their sleep patterns, food consumption and everything in-between fed back to clubs, but that’s where we are at right now.

And that is where Apollo comes in and fills the void to track where each player is at so you can plan for their return to the training ground accordingly.

“It is absolutely paramount that this is being tracked and the exercises and data. The problem the players have got is that they can ride bikes and lift weights and go on runs and do sprints, but it is not the same as playing 11-v-11 for 90 minutes. That is very difficult to mimic,” Hancock added. “This is very, very, very important for the clubs and the coaching staff because that is the difference between winning and losing, promotion and relegation. This window that the leagues are going to give them, for me is very important. From a clubs point of view it is paramount they continue to communicate, continue to deliver, continue to be able to monitor what each of the players are doing. Heart rate and GPS, all of that stuff that is being used, can be uploaded into our system instantly. Therefore, people can do this all remotely.”

Getty Images

Most people agree that this sort of data analysis and collection will now become the new normal across the soccer world.

Analytics and sports science already plays a much bigger role than it did 10 years ago but this current situation should mean that if they haven’t been already, Premier League players and clubs will now stay in constant contact throughout the summer months and offseason.

“Every player sees themselves as a brand and a company within themselves now. They want to look after themselves and do the best for their bodies. They are very professional. This system enables the clubs to know what they are doing,” Cole explained. “There are a lot of players who go away in the summer who go with specific personal trainers and they might be good ones or might not be. It doesn’t matter if they are the best or the worst in the world, if there’s no cohesion between what you’re doing with them and what you’re doing with the club, it all falls down. It is like a symphony. You can’t just go away and beast yourself and then come off it. There needs to be communication. When the players report back what they’ve done and the clubs get their hands on them, they can then pick it up. It is like fine-tuning a Formula One car now, these guys. They need this level of care.”

With so much focus on when and if leagues will return to action, not a lot of attention has been placed on exactly when the players will actually be ready to return to action.

“The sports scientists and all of the knowledge they bring, having a good one of those is going to be vital,” Cole said. “The more data you have and the better person you can have to read that data, whoever does that the best will have a better chance to win games. It’s as simple as that. With Apollo you can see how your players have slept, what they’re eating, psychologically how they’re doing. That is without the nuts and bolts of the training. It is vital you’re all singing off the same hymn sheet. If I was a manager I’d be very comfortable if my club had this tool because I’d have full control on what’s been going on. It is massively important.”

Just as important as when the Premier League returns to action is what Premier League players and clubs are doing right now to make sure that return is a successful, and healthy, one.

Personally, I’m intrigued to see if there’s a huge difference between which teams have a storming finish to the season and others who finish sluggishly and if that can be put down to training methods and tracking during this lengthy suspension.

Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa, Blues’ defense?

Leave a comment

Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga and how much does it improve the Chelsea defense?

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Frank Lampard has confirmed that goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, 28, has arrived from Rennes in a $28 million deal and the Senegalese international will provide ‘competition’ to Kepa.

“Competition is a regular thing. We have brought Mendy in for that competition. It’s in everyone’s hands to get into the squad,” Lampard said. “I think it is the hardest position, because of the individual nature of it. I have to be sympathetic to that point. Last year I changed a few times, it’s a different thought process. We are always striving for the best performance.”

Is anyone buying that?

A couple of high-profile mistakes in Chelsea’s opening two games of the Premier League season has highlighted Kepa’s poor form and Chelsea have moved fast to bring in Mendy.

What does this mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga?

As the ProSoccerTalk lads discuss in the video above, this is probably the end, or at the very least the beginning of the end, for Kepa at Chelsea. Kepa has never really settled at Chelsea and over the last two seasons he hasn’t backed up being the most expensive goalkeeper in the world.

That transfer fee was a little false, as Chelsea were backed into a corner after losing Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid and paid Kepa’s release clause of $91.1 million to Athletic Bilbao. But they still paid it and even if the fee was half of that, eyebrows would have been raised. Kepa, 25, has failed to command his box, looked nervous with the ball at his feet and shots from outside the box have also given him plenty of problems. Not a great combo for a goalkeeper.

Chelsea may look to loan him out but there’s no doubt that after being dropped for veteran Willy Caballero at the end of last season, the writing was on the wall and Kepa is on borrowed time at Stamford Bridge.

Does Edouard Mendy to Chelsea improve their defense right away?

Not right away, but it will help. His impressive ability to come for crosses and his towering six-foot six-inch frame should provide some stability and confidence from the defenders around him but the way Chelsea play suggests their defensive issues will remain.

Frank Lampard loves to attack and it’s fun to watch. Well, unless you’re a goalkeeper or defender for the Blues. Mendy is one part of the jigsaw and so too is Thiago Silva who will add a calm head and his experience to a youthful defense, and Ben Chilwell at left back will also improve their defensive outlook.

Lampard loves to attack, though, and we must admit that without N’Golo Kante in front of a oft-changed back four, things will be tough. Mendy’s arrival should help settle things down and help Chelsea improve at the back but Lampard needs his center backs to stand tall in the coming weeks and months.

League Cup: How to watch, start times, as Premier League powers enter

League Cup
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fifteen Premier League teams eye dates in the fourth round when the League Cup returns for another September midweek.

The congested nature of the season will see some PL sides play three matches in as many weeks, though the European qualifying teams are just entering the fray this week.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

That includes Europa League sides Arsenal and Leicester City, who will stage the lone all-PL scrap of the round come Wednesday at the King Power Stadium.

Tuesday was going to see Tottenham Hotspur visit a club sponsored by Spurs striker Harry Kane, but Leyton Orient is in the news after positive COVID-19 tests have threatened to forfeit Spurs into the next round.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Manchester United will hope to snap out of its season-opening funk when it begins its tourney Tuesday at Luton Town, while Chelsea hosts Barnsley on Wednesday.

Liverpool is off to Lincoln City on Thursday, kicking off its League Cup at the same time Manchester City welcomes Bournemouth.

Because of the aforementioned congested September in the tournament, the fourth round draw has already been held and those fixtures are at bottom of the page.


League Cup third round draw

All times ET

Tuesday
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — Postponed
West Brom v Brentford — 2 pm
Newport County v Watford — 2pm
West Ham United v Hull City — 2:30 pm
Luton Town v Manchester United — 3:15 pm

Wednesday
Preston North End v Brighton — 2 pm
Millwall v Burnley — 2 pm
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday — 2 pm
Stoke City v Gillingham — 2 pm
Chelsea v Barnsley — 2:45 pm
Leicester City v Arsenal — 2:45 pm
Fleetwood Town v Everton — 2:45 pm
Morecambe v Newcastle United — 2:45 pm

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United


How to watch League Cup third round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Sancho deal off

Dembele to Manchester United
Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the latest transfer news there is an Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United report, while Jadon Sancho to Manchester United is said to be off. Again.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Let’s dive into the latest transfer news from around the Premier League, with a big focus on the Red Devils as they try to add key pieces late in the window.

Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United a good alternative to Sancho?

According to the Daily Record, Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United could happen in the final weeks of the window. Ronald Koeman has said Dembele, 23, is one of many players who are surplus to requirements at Barcelona. Per the report, Man United want a season-long loan deal for Dembele while Barcelona want a loan with an obligation to buy clause. They value Dembele at $117 million.

Look, the best thing Barcelona can do here is loan Dembele out and hope he stays fit and has a fine season at Man United so they want to buy him, or another club will buy him, or he could even return to Barca rejuvenated and able to be a key figure in their attack. Dembele’s last few seasons have been ravaged by injury and it is clear that Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and

For Man United, a loan move is a no-brainer. As they continue to chase Jadon Sancho but are more likely to make their move for the English winger next summer (more on that shortly), having a French international winger for a season to plug the gap is smart. If Dembele is up for the challenge of moving to Manchester United and rebuilding his career, he would provide plenty of competition to Mason Greenwood out wide and is a big upgrade on Jesse Lingard, Daniel James and Juan Mata as their other wide attackers.

Jadon Sancho to Manchester United off

It appears that Jadon Sancho to Manchester United will not happen unless the Red Devils panic massively in the latter stages of the transfer window and up their bid.

Sancho, 20, has been the top target for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but the England international hasn’t forced through a move from Borussia Dortmund and our colleagues at Sky Sports in the UK state the German club are ‘bemused’ by the way United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has approached the deal as they’ve failed to get anywhere near Sancho’s valuation.

Speaking to Sport 1, Borussia Dortmund director Sebastian Kehl had the following to say about Sancho’s situation.

“We agreed that we had to show a certain attitude. And €80m are simply not enough for such a player,” Kehl said. “We owed that to the club and the fans. I don’t want to give him up either. Without Jadon this team is worse.”

Kehl went on to admit that Sancho could leave one day but for now he’s happy at Dortmund and vice versa. Is that the end of the summer-long Sancho saga? If it wasn’t over, it pretty much is now.

There’s no doubt that Sancho will end up in the Premier League, and probably at Manchester United, in the future but this deal always seemed like a long-shot considering the current financial situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Man United need a new winger to strengthen their already stacked attack and Solskjaer is better off focusing on a short-term solution and then lining up the deal for Sancho to happen over the next few transfer windows.

That said, United’s inability to get deals over the line (Sergio Reguilon, Gareth Bale and Jadon Sancho to name just a few) is starting to wear thing on most of their fans and unless they secure wins galore early in the season, it could be a tough few months for Solskjaer and Co.

USWNT star Alex Morgan eager for Tottenham, WSL debut

Alex Morgan to Tottenham
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alex Morgan to Tottenham is a huge move for the FA Women’s Super League.

[ STREAM: Watch WSL live on NBC Sports ]

USWNT star Morgan, 31, will make her debut for Spurs in the WSL in October, and she joins fellow U.S. stars Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis (both at Man City) Christen Press, Tobin Heath (both at Man United) in England.

Morgan is the biggest star name in the WSL, even though the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal are consistently successful and have attracted some huge names in women’s soccer over a busy offseason for the PL.

Remember: WSL action will make its TV debut in the USA this season as 50 games during the 2020-21 WSL season will be shown across the NBC Sports platforms as part of a season-long partnership with Atalanta Media.

Speaking to Tottenham’s website, here was what Morgan had to say about what she’s hoping to gain from her time in the WSL after moving from NWSL side Orlando Pride.

“I’ve heard so many great things about the WSL and some of my team-mates from the USA National Team have come over and signed with other clubs in the WSL,” Morgan said. “I wanted to challenge myself and play in a different league than what I’m used to, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to come here and just see the progress that the WSL has made and the quality all around the league.

“I hope I provide goals for this team, help to win games, help the team get to the top of the table, and set ourselves up for success within the season. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there from the start but the fact that we’re only two games in, I think that I could really help the team moving forward and get back to where I left off at the end of summer last year.”

How did the Alex Morgan to Tottenham move come about?

Well, it all happened very, very quickly for Morgan.

“Everything happened really fast. I was spending time in Orlando with my team in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) and it just hit me that I needed consistent games and consistent training for an entire season, at least for the remainder of the year. I started looking at the league here and Tottenham is obviously a huge club that was on my radar and within, I think, less than 48 hours, we were able to get the deal signed and completed and within 48 hours after that I am sure I landed here, so it all happened extremely quickly,” Morgan said.

“Obviously, I had to take into account my family, my daughter, and my husband who plays football in the US. I also had to look at how I can get back after not playing for a good amount of time due to injury, also pregnancy and the pandemic, so there’s a lot of things that played into this decision. Just to be a part of this organisation is pretty incredible, you know, the rich history and the fact that the women’s team have continued to improve year after year, I’m really happy to take this next step in my career.”

Tottenham haven’t historically been among the most successful teams in the WSL and the other incarnations of women’s soccer in England, but signing Morgan takes them to the next level.

This will be a lot of fun to watch and it will provide Morgan with the perfect opportunity to get back up to speed ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo next summer.