Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp believes his players have grown up and become more streetwise in the last few weeks.
Having ground out back-to-back wins against Stoke and West Brom in games they would arguably have stumbled in earlier in the season, the Reds have found another way of winning.
The team have morphed from being the great entertainers at the start of the campaign with a thrilling brand of football which saw them scoring goals for fun, to a side which – with Champions League football now within touching distance – is focused on getting the job done at all costs.
It has impressed Klopp, who saw an unexpected title challenge collapse partly due to defeats against bottom-half clubs Burnley, Bournemouth, Swansea, Hull and Leicester.
“I told the boys it looked like adult football,” said the manager, referring to his praise for the team following last weekend’s 1-0 win at West Brom.
“At the start of the season we were this exciting team, fluent, running everywhere and looking like we had no plan when we had a plan, and being really flexible and dangerous.
“If we were not in this mood, we did not get the results we wanted.
“We all know it is not easy to create 10 chances in 45 minutes against West Brom because they are too well organised, so scoring the goal (just before half-time) was fantastic.
“Improving in the game and learning from the first half was the best thing to see in this game.
“It is really rare games like this are the best of your season because of the style and quality of your opponent, but it was a really good feeling in the dressing room afterwards as it was deserved.”
Conceding a late equaliser to Bournemouth at Anfield earlier this month has prevented Liverpool putting together a run of four successive wins and what would have been six victories in seven matches plus a draw against Manchester City.
That result still rankles slightly with Klopp.
“Against Bournemouth we were 2-1 up and we still played like we wanted to create a lot of chances with full-backs high, and we have to change in a situation like this,” he added ahead of the visit of Crystal Palace.
“It is not that you don’t want to create chances but it is not a moment when you have to chase the game, it is a moment when you have to use your opponents’ situation in that they have to do more.
“We have worked on it but how can you work on getting more experience?
“You cannot improve 100 per cent in a week or two weeks but we know about the issue and we have to work on it in the future.
“It is not forbidden to want to create chances in a situation like this but after 80 minutes we have to be serious in all things.
“It is allowed to shoot the ball over the stand…but we are not like this, we are an exciting team who like to create these moments, but we know about it and will try to improve.”