Liverpool’s draw with West Ham United magnified one unfathomable aspect every title-chasing team faces: Nerves.
The Reds, prior to this month, had been an irrepressible winning machine, and have still only lost once this season, to Manchester City, the team second in the table.
Yet their two recent draws, with Leicester City and, on Monday, with West Ham United, have confirmed what many have suspected for a while, that there might well be a slip incoming.
The gap is now three points but, due to City’s superior goal difference, Liverpool are likely to start Saturday’s game against AFC Bournemouth in second. City face Everton on Wednesday and it would be a quite shocking turn of events if the Toffees won that game, both in terms of quality on the pitch and current form.
But that may well suit Jurgen Klopp’s men down to the ground.
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At the start of the season, City were billed as the favourites and it is little surprise – Pep Guardiola’s men racked up 100 points last season and strengthened well in the summer. It appeared that they would only get better.
But Liverpool’s title challenge threw a spanner in those works, and all of a sudden it was the Reds who were being billed as top dogs.
They have twice blown the chance to stretch their lead and may now fall away from the top spot.
Yet Liverpool play better as part of the chasing pack. City will not enjoy the thought of the Reds breathing down their necks – Klopp’s side rarely lose when capitalising on a slip, but the inverse appears true when they are top, as they drew with Leicester after City had lost 2-1 to Newcastle United.
An attitude change, then, is needed. The Merseysiders should treat the rest of the season as though they are chasing, as though they are constantly looking to capitalise on a slip from their rivals at the summit.
Acting like a pack of prowling lions – that meme that saw Tottenham so mocked during their chase with Leicester – even if they are top of the table will add some hunger, some desperation to pick up all three points, and also wipe away many of the nerves that appeared to cripple the Reds at the London Stadium.
The fact of the matter is they were outplayed and out-fought, while they were aided by some questionable refereeing decisions, but they still picked up a point.
Come the end of the season, they may look back at that draw as a vital point, but they have to ensure that they do not fall victim to nerves again.
Changing the mindset at Anfield would go a long way to safeguarding their challenge and potentially limit the slips that have characterised the past fortnight.