An apologetic Loris Karius holds his hands up to the Liverpool faithful, wiping tears away from his eyes in the blood-red of the shirt — on Europe’s biggest stage he choked, the psychological pressure mauling him of any confidence.
The Champions League isn’t for bottlers. You have to be bold with unwavering confidence and a winning mentality. Jordan Henderson goes to protect the keeper but he too is clearly moved by what the previous ninety minutes just entailed. Jurgen Klopp walks past the trophy, runners-up medal in hand, a feeling he had begun to know all too well in recent years — six times in a row.
Just one year on, Liverpool’s sixth Champions League title was secured and the mentality of the side unquestionable, unrecognisable. That team that lost in Kyiv smashed through the ceiling, achieving a new level of confidence, a new level of focus — a new level entirely.
Off the back of a monumental 3-1 win against Manchester City, Liverpool now hold a nine-point lead over last season’s champions and show no signs of stopping. It’s a bittersweet irony that saw Liverpool drop their first points of the season at Old Trafford, given their lacklustre start to the season.
“Honestly, we don’t feel the pressure,” said Klopp, speaking to the press. “People are saying ‘Liverpool can only lose it from here’, it’s a very negative approach but we just don’t care.”
Liverpool are a different beast now and that City game was the perfect showcase for that. Flying out of the traps, the Reds set the precedent from the off with high-paced transition play and having their full-backs the furthest forward we’ve seen them all season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold shone individually for his attacking presence but for his passing range in particular, his ability to switch the play was crucial in Liverpool’s second of the evening. Playmaking from right back, the 21-year-old surely has a future role in Liverpool’s midfield.
Speaking of, Fabinho’s long-range scorcher showed how there’s almost nothing he isn’t capable of; given his defensive prowess, there’s an argument to be made that he’s the most complete midfielder in the world right now.
It’s the addition and development of leaders that have really sparked this undefeatable mentality. Jordan Henderson has grown in fans estimations, Van Dijk has stood as firm as ever and Alisson’s commanding voice from goal has instilled a sense of defensive solidarity.
The home record embodying that mentality with Liverpool unbeaten at home for two and a half seasons – totalling in 36 wins and 10 draws. City, on the other hand, have lost three Premier League games at the Etihad in that time.
Discuss. pic.twitter.com/bfB57IArqe— Anfield Edition (@AnfieldEdition) November 14, 2019
Jurgen Klopp has moulded this team into serial winners. Gone are the days of imploding on themselves, as we saw against Bournemouth in that crazy 4-3, a 5-4 ding-dong against Norwich and a complete collapse in the Europa League final.
Liverpool are no longer sucked into these chaotic matches. The Reds control the chaos as we saw in the comebacks against Dortmund and Barcelona. Controlled chaos is the best way to describe the current European champions — they know when to create it and when to silence it.
This was evident on Sunday. Bernardo Silva’s goal with 12 minutes to go should have sparked panic but it wasn’t even close for Klopp’s side and the fans alike.
Doubters to believers is what Klopp asked for and it’s fair to say this message has had a big role to play in the evolution of this side. The atmosphere at the weekend was just another modern meeting with Manchester City, roaring crowds and burning flares igniting a bitter rivalry. There’s no doubt that this noise affected the City players just like it did in the Champions League two years ago.
It’s a never say die mentality that the fans create that reflects on the pitch. Just how many last-gasp goals have we seen in the last year or so? Origi smashing late goals in the faces of Everton and Newcastle, Milner’s late penalty against Leicester and Sadio Mane’s header at Villa – Liverpool now live for the clutch moments.
When Liverpool trail a game, there’s an air of inevitability; the comeback is almost certain to happen and you can’t stop it. Whether it be three down at the Nou Camp or minutes left at Villa Park, this side will go again.
I guess it’s quite a shame that Liverpool have become as dominant as they are and not the imminent heart-attack they once were. The heartache in Kyiv long ago, Liverpool are the ‘mentality monsters’ and will continue to control the chaos into the new decade under Jurgen Klopp.