Class of 2018/19: Virgil Van Dijk

The Class of 2018/19 is a short series in which, ahead of the new season starting on Friday, The Anfield Talk contributors review the 2018/19 season’s of Liverpool’s squad. 

Here is @notdrewcasper, reviewing Virgil van Dijk’s season…

In previous seasons Liverpool’s attack was often overshadowed by its defense, but not for good reason. Lack of consistency and a knack for committing terrible errors placed loads of pressure not only on the players, but on the club. Fast forward to present day times, and we now hold conversations and debates as to whether Liverpool have the best defense in the world. That’s no coincidence.

Virgil Van Dijk’s imminent arrival from Southampton last season broke the record for the highest fee ever paid for a defender, at the time. Fast forward to now and that deal seems like an absolute steal, remarkable piece of business. When he arrived, his influence on the team was noticed immediately. Oh, and that Kop end goal against Everton helped ease his arrival process.

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Van Dijk became a real quarterback this season. Often yelling at the likes of Andy Robertson, Dejan Lovren, Trent, Joe Gomez and Matip, holding them accountable in every situation but at the same time elevating the levels of their play.

This season, Virgil had a Lebron-like effect on Liverpool’s defense. Going from defensive frailty and constant worry, to the best defensive record in the league all while those same defenders contribute to the counterpress and goal scoring as well. 

Virgil is clearly a natural leader, he’s been in Liverpool for only one full season and in that season performances, results, mentality, morale and potential have all improved immensely. But, the most interesting thing about him is all season long he never took the credit for himself one time. Whenever pundits and journalists showered him with all of those lovely stats, he attributed it to his teammates and his coaches, a true leader. 

Virgil played in 50 premier league/ champions league matches this season. In total he scored 6 times and had 4 assists. His ability to play the long ball became more effective this season as we saw him set up that unforgettable Mané goal against Bayern, and then finish them off with the header into the bottom left hand corner. 

During his illustrious run of form this season, Virgil faced some of the best forwards in the world week in and week out. Players in the league like Hazard, Kane, Aguero, Lukaku, Aubameyang, Sterling etc. He wasn’t dribbled past once. 

In the Champions League, well he faced the best forwards in the world. Coming up against the likes of Dries Mertens, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Robert Lewandowski, Cavani, Luis Suarez, Coutinho, and of course Lionel Messi. Yet again, he wasn’t dribbled past one single time. Colossal. 

There’s outrunning the lightning quick Adama Traore; recovering to dispossess Son Heung-min in the Champions League final; so many big headers, vital clearances and interceptions it’s hard to highlight just a few moments. 

It was a quite sensational season for Van Dijk, he answered the question over whether he was one of the league’s best defenders, and one of the world’s best. If not the best. This is the list of illustrious awards he’s already won: the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, a spot in the Premier League Team of the Year, same again in the Champions League Squad of the Year. He also could potentially shock the world and take home the Ballon D’or as well.

Since his arrival, Liverpool’s number of clean sheets increased drastically, as well as the points per game average. Anytime someone takes to social media or tv to undermine his talent because he doesn’t lead the league in tackles, remember this quote from the great Paolo Maldini; “If I have to make a tackle, then I have already made a mistake.”

He’s our centre half, he’s our number four. Watch him defend, and we watch him score. He’ll pass the ball, calm as you like. He’s Virgil Van Dijk.

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