The pressure of competing at the top of the table is nothing new to Georginio Wijnaldum – in fact, it is a feeling the Liverpool midfielder thoroughly enjoys.
Jürgen Klopp’s team jumped to the summit of the Premier League last time out courtesy of a resounding 6-1 victory over Watford at Anfield.
Wijnaldum put the seal on that result with a 90th-minute strike in front of the Kop, ending his wait for a first goal for the Reds since signing in the summer.
The No.5 represented the Netherlands during the international break and could be set for a return to Klopp’s starting line-up at Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
Liverpool’s aim on the south coast will be to maintain their position in first place.
That is an objective Wijnaldum became accustomed to during his four years with PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie – and the Dutchman is drawing on his past experience of being right in contention.
“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.”
Wijnaldum’s second season in English football is proving much different to his first so far.
Last term, the 26-year-old was part of a struggling Newcastle United team that eventually suffered relegation to the Championship.
And he explained how the winning form this time around is creating a positive mood within the squad – though simultaneously warned that Liverpool cannot rest on what they have achieved to date.
“The difference between the feeling you have when you’re in the bottom three or at the top of the league is huge,” added Wijnaldum.
“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.”
Wijnaldum was speaking to LFC Xtra – click here to download the app now and look out for a special fan Q&A with the midfielder coming soon.