How Do You Handle The Pressure?

I love the phrase we have associated with Virgil van Dijk. The “Calm As You Like” moniker is one he owns. There is rarely a spike, from social media posts to broadcasts to interviews. He is that unshakable rock in the back that a lot of this Liverpool success has been built on. But to win our next title, we need all our players to handle the pressure like our captain.

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After the Manchester United draw in December, both van Dijk and Klopp spoke about their frustration with that game. It was a point that felt more like losing two than claiming one.

Virgil came out with the statement, “We carry on, of course, but it is frustrating because we were superior in all aspects. In the end, they are buzzing with a point and we are disappointed with a point.” Klopp echoed the sentiment with a more demure take. “The main thing I don’t like is the result, we should have won the game. With that number of finishes, a few more should have been on target. It should have been more, but there were some things I liked.”

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Escaping The Spectres Of The Past

In a game of millimeters, the pressure to perform weighs heavy on broad shoulders. Recent history is rife with evidence of capitulation. Gerrard’s slip and our collapse versus Crystal Palace in 2013-14 still stings. Stevie G’s old club, Aston Villa, couldn’t do us a solid a year ago as the Villans were upended by City on the season’s final day to pip us once again.

Losing to City by a single point in multiple seasons is bad enough, doing so while racking up some of the highest point tallies in Premier League history is that much worse. The margins are some of the finest out there.

That takes us to where we are today. The Reds are two points ahead of Manchester City after twenty matches played apiece. It doesn’t conjure any sort of comfort. We’ve seen bigger leads evaporate by the end because of the pressure of the campaign.

Embracing The Pressure Of The Future

One positive takeaway we can hold onto is that we learned some valuable lessons in the past to get us across this line. Unlike the league-winning 2019-20 season, we don’t have a huge lead to let opposing clubs eat into. It’s going to be fine margins. We are going to have to exude the utmost calm, poise, and determination to see it through. And to the team’s credit, the mentality monsters have returned.

Liverpool have taken a league-high 19 points from deficit positions this year. There is a shout to rename the dreaded “Fergie Time” to “Klopp Time.” Teams know they can’t rest easy with Liverpool until the full-time whistle has blown. Our one loss this term came against Tottenham through a calamitous bit of VAR and a Joel Matip own goal whose “class” was only matched by its tardiness.

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All of this speaks to the fact that we have been here before. We know the stakes and have rediscovered the drive to see it through. If you don’t follow Mo Salah on social media you are missing out. No matter the day’s result, you can find him stoking the fire and promising to “keep fighting to do better.”

Kevin De Bruyne’s return to City’s lineup, and his frustrating lack of rustiness in a comeback win versus Newcastle, means that the pressure is amping up. I’m breaking my own self-imposed rule and dreaming once again of a title. It’s going to be a fight that comes down to willpower and guts in the dying moments of games. Reminders of Istanbul, the corner taken quickly, and Origi and Alisson headers will be conjured in our minds. We just need to remember that we’ve been here before and are fully capable of adding another lifetime reminder to that bunch.

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