Whether Liverpool are credible challengers for the Premier League title may be debatable, but being top of the league for the first time since May 2014 illustrates the progress under Jürgen Klopp. Now that Liverpool are top of the league, Georginio Wijnaldum welcomes the pressure of putting in the performances and securing the results to stay there.
“It’s quite similar,” he said. “At PSV, I was playing for a team that has to be champions every year. That means there is a lot of pressure, but I like that pressure because it’s a pressure that you have to perform well every weekend. And that gives me a good feeling.
“If there is no pressure it means that you play in a team who people think can lose. Especially now, everyone expects us to win. I like the pressure.”
Although October's international break saw Wijnaldum lose his place due to injury and the improved form of Emre Can, this month's international break has provided an opportunity to regain his place. Injuries to Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho mean that the Wijnaldum, who started seven successive league games as part of an impressive midfield unit, can show how he fares with growing expectations.
The 26-year-old experienced difficult times last season with Newcastle United as their star player. He scored eleven league goals in a solid debut campaign that ended in relegation, quite different to winning the Eredivisie the season before with PSV Eindhoven. Whether it's being relied on as a struggling team's main source of goals or earning recognition as the driving force in a title-winning campaign, Wijnaldum is accustomed to being a central figure.
There is, however, a difference between life at both ends of the table. Playing good football and winning games naturally attracts greater expectations, and for Liverpool, that's something that the players will need to take in their stride. Momentum, confidence, and expectation are all factors that will hopefully remain part of this campaign for as long as possible.
“The difference between the feeling you have when you’re in the bottom three or at the top of the league is huge,” he added. “When you’re at the bottom of the league it means you are losing a lot of games. And when you lose a lot of games as a football player you don’t feel good, because you want to win games to feel good and have confidence.
“That was the problem we had last year – we were losing too many games and the confidence went away. It’s difficult to play and enjoy football, because every time you lose you lose confidence and the joy of football.
“Now we are winning almost every game. We have a good team and we are at the top of the table. That’s the big difference between last season and this season. But we still have a long way to go until the end of the season, so we must make sure that it stays like this, because everything can change.”