At times this season, Liverpool have looked a dominant side. Even at their best, though, there have been doubts. Doubts about their ability to defend if and when they need to. Doubts that leave fans feeling nervous any time the clock ticks towards full time and they're only up by a goal.
It's been an obvious problem, the defence and closing out games, and the players are aware of that just like the fans have been. For Liverpool defender Joël Matip, though, it's not entirely a Liverpool problem. In part at least it's just the nature of the ultra-competitive Premier League.
"We know we have to improve in defence," Matip told SportBild today. "But it's also that the style of play can make it difficult in England. It's so up and down all the time, and tactics sometimes become worthless. You can be vulnerable, especially as a team like us that like to go forward.
"Thank god we score so much, and it might sound cliche, but it's just more physical in the Premier League. Especially from the teams in the bottom third where the players like to fly into the box. It's a different kind of physicality, and teams design their game around it. It's a real fight because of it."
Liverpool faced an especially tough test against an opponent intent on doing just that—sending big players into the box and relying on physicality and aerial balls—on Sunday when they faced West Bromwich Albion. And they managed to scrape out a 1-0 victory.
It's something that will give them confidence as they prepare to face another similar opponent in Crystal Palace on the weekend and then Watford the week after that. Then comes Southampton, and by that point, Matip and his teammates will be looking forward to facing a bit of skill.
"It's different with the top teams where the key aspect is footballing skills," Matip noted, though with West Ham and Middlesbrough set to close out the season following the Southampton match, the end of Liverpool's season is going to be heavy on aerial balls and physicality.