Georginio Wijnaldum: How Liverpool became ‘mentality monsters’
Wijnaldum says belief in one another, confidence behind Liverpool's late winners
Juergen Klopp called his Liverpool side "mentality monsters" after April's 3-1 comeback victory at Southampton.
Their next big test - the top-of-the-table clash with Manchester City on Monday morning (Singapore time) - is set to reveal more about those monsters that he had created.
Can they embolden their title dream, or will their six-point advantage be cut down to size?
To be sure, Klopp's men have been living up to the moniker.
They have dropped just 13 points in their previous 30 league games, with eight of them coming in the two months following January's defeat at the Etihad Stadium.
Only the reigning champions, in 2011/12 and 2017/18, and Chelsea's class of 2005/06 managed to rack up the same number of points (31) from their opening 11 fixtures as the Reds' current crop.
A penchant for late winners has been a recurring theme for the Reds in the EPL era, with 35 scored in the 90th minute or later - 10 more than any other top-flight team.
Crucially, five of them have arrived since the beginning of the previous campaign.
"That's something we changed in the last few years," midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum told The New Paper, on his side's late comebacks.
"A couple of years ago, we were struggling to win games like we win them now, but we grew and learned a lot during the years.
"I think it helped us, and I hope it continues until the end of the season."
It has also armed Klopp with the perfect antidote to an unhealthy aspect of Anfield's culture.
During the formative months of the German's tenure, fans often left the stadium before full time. Liverpool falling behind was seen as its justification.
Now, however, more fans are perched on the edge of their seats than departing.
A team that never know when they are beaten are the perfect selling point to curb temptations to abscond.
That never-say-die spirit, previously confined to Steven Gerrard in his heyday, has allowed Liverpool to begin making amends for the ones that got away and gifted City the title.
Already, they have managed to go one better and claw back four of the points dropped last term, away to Chelsea and at home to Leicester.
THRIVE ON RELENTLESSNESS
Improving three-fold on their solitary point against City at Anfield in October 2018 is not beyond the realms of possibility for a team that thrive on relentlessness.
But, as Wijnaldum concedes, the superhuman abilities of Klopp's well-drilled machine when the odds are against them late in matches often requires head-versus-heart negotiations.
"It's hard, really hard," admits the Dutch midfielder.
"You have to go until the end.
"And you have to go even when you don't physically see a positive outcome, especially at the end of the games. You just keep going because you think you can.
"Your body is tired and so you battle with your body like, 'No, we have to go, we have to go on'.
"It's really hard but, in the end, you enjoy it more if you win that way than if it is easy."
The Reds' unbeaten EPL run had looked like ending several times, most recently last Saturday, when Sadio Mane's late assist and goal in the dying minutes helped them steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
Added Wijnaldum: "We just create that thing - that we know we always can turn things around.
"Normally, if you are 2-0 down, your body language is going to change, but we still have that mindset that we can still turn it around.
"It's because of the belief we have in one another, but also the results we have had. We have (turned games around) a lot of times. That gives confidence.
"If it just happened once, it's not the same. But it happened over and over. We know we are a team that can always come back from difficult situations.
"But of course we don't want to let it go that far!"
With the Anfield crowd aware of this team's refusal to bow in the face of defeat, a red-hot cauldron awaits the champions.
Pep Guardiola is already under no illusions of Anfield's aura ahead of Monday's showdown. In four visits there as City manager, his side have lost thrice and drawn once.
To retain their title again, his side will need to tame the EPL's mentality monsters .