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Yalla Shoot :LEWIS STEELE: The Mentality Monsters are back! Jurgen Klopp is reaping rewards for placing a focus on psychology and re-fostering a winning mentality… as Darwin Nunez nets Liverpool’s latest late winner

Winning football matches in the last knockings of games is not by design but when it becomes a habit, like it seems to be doing for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side, it certainly is no fluke or stroke of luck.

Darwin Nunez’s 99th-minute header at Nottingham Forest caused a storm of controversy at the City Ground on Saturday and, while the home team had a right to be frustrated at their downfall, it was just another example of Liverpool fighting to the very last second to win.

It was the 18th example of the Jurgen Klopp era that the Reds have won a match in second-half stoppage time, more than any other team since his arrival on these shores. If one theme could sum up this title tilt above all, it would be the hunger, belief and fighting spirit to never give up.

After a win in the leafy Austrian city of Linz on the banks of the Danube in September, Klopp was asked if the ‘Mentality Monsters’ are back. That’s the self-subbed phrase he once used to describe an older iteration of his team. He laughed and declined.

Sorry, Jurgen, you were wrong. This team are Mentality Monsters. Whether it’s that nickname or the ‘Liverpool 2.0’ many use, the Merseyside club have demonstrated psychology is a central aspect underpinning the fight for four trophies.

Darwin Nunez snatched a win for Liverpool late on against Nottingham Forest on Saturday

Darwin Nunez snatched a win for Liverpool late on against Nottingham Forest on Saturday

The forward headed Liverpool in front in the ninth minute of stoppage time at the City Ground

The forward headed Liverpool in front in the ninth minute of stoppage time at the City Ground

The trip to Forest was far from their best level and will not top any list for performance of the season but, in terms of the context of the win, with an injury crisis and the time of the goal, it was the biggest win of the campaign.

‘With our squad situation it’s super tough,’ he said. ‘Four games in 11 games. How the boys have fought through that is really special. We knew we wouldn’t come here and play them out the stadium. We knew we had to fight through this and the boys did that.

‘If you asked me 12 days ago if we could win all four, I would have said, “No”. But my boys made it happen. It’s up there with all the others (for the biggest win of the season) but today was Aston Villa-like.’

That refers to a famous win on the way to Liverpool’s first ever Premier League title in 2019-20 when the Reds were 1-0 down at Villa Park until two late goals, in the 87th and and 94th minute, turned the game on its head. ‘Rescue mission,’ read the headline in Mail Sport.

As for big wins this term, only a 2-1 win at Newcastle in August runs it close for the drama, when 10-man Liverpool were inspired by super-sub Darwin Nunez with two late goals. Sound familiar? That felt more a case of Newcastle crumbling, Forest was all down to Liverpool’s class.

After a forgetful season last year in which the Reds finished fifth – even that was boosted due to an 11-match unbeaten run to finish the campaign – Klopp and his staff put emphasis on psychology and re-fostering a winning mentality.

That team, who dropped points in 19 of 38 matches, was not too dissimilar from the side who won 92 points the season before. Klopp would have conceded that, above all, they were probably burned out and mentally bruised from fighting – and often losing to – Manchester City.

And so to help stop yet another Blue Moon rising over Manchester, the Liverpool boss entrusted the help of several blue-sky thinkers. One guest was Jan Frodeno, the German triathlete who has won an Olympic gold medal and three Ironman world championships.

Liverpool's late victory at the City Ground could be one of the most important in their season

Liverpool’s late victory at the City Ground could be one of the most important in their season

Frodeno, a friend of Klopp’s, came into a pre-season camp in the Black Forest region of south-west Germany to give a talk on psychological resilience, fighting through mental barriers when fatigue is present, plus hunger to stay at the elite level of sport for multiple years.

Liverpool also invited businessman Kevin Roberts, former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, to talk to coaches about fostering a winning culture around the training base. Roberts, through his consultancy arm Red Rose, has also lectured England’s cricket and rugby teams.

Surfing champion Sebastian Steudtner has previously given lectures on dealing with stress in uncomfortable situations, like being 1-0 down… or riding an 85 ft wave? Last month, Klopp also entrusted a group of neuroscientists, Neuro11, for sessions on remaining calm during games.

The sub-contracted motivational speakers have no doubt been important but take nothing away from Klopp and his close allies, such as Pep Lijnders and Peter Krawietz, who discussed this season as ‘The Last Dance’ before their exits, one which they would give their all for glory.

Unplanned exits of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho caused a bit of a panic in the transfer department, plus departures of well-liked figures Roberto Firmino, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but it gave the squad a much-needed fresher and younger look.

Virgil van Dijk has stepped up to become the ultimate captain for Liverpool this season

Virgil van Dijk has stepped up to become the ultimate captain for Liverpool this season

Van Dijk has stepped up as the ultimate captain, while vice-skipper Trent Alexander-Arnold has been a key role-model for younger stars. Five of Liverpool’s squad captain their national team, also including Andy Robertson, Wataru Endo, Mohamed Salah and Dominik Szoboszlai.

A gruelling pre-season included three sessions a day, a programme led by fitness guru Andreas Kornmayer to ensure tip-top conditioning, but downtime was also written into the timetable, with players encouraged to relax together.

That gave time for the likes of Robertson and Ibrahima Konate, described as a ‘class clown who everyone loves’, to create a summer games series during time off. Many tasks included trivial things like ‘take a selfie with Mo (Salah)’ but it helped foster a friendly and laid back culture.

Whether it be the multitude of psychology-led sessions, Klopp’s motivational team-talks or just an innate winning DNA, Liverpool certainly found an extra gear from somewhere in the 99th minute at Forest. Nunez’s goal might not be the best, but it could be the biggest of the season.

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