Virgil van Dijk: Liverpool’s Defensive Resurgence

The Anfield Talk’s Logan (@kidd9logan) takes a look at Virgil van Dijk and his impact at Liverpool.

Virgil van Dijk played with the hearts of many Liverpool fans during the summer transfer window.  Many rumours were thrown out there that he would be joining Manchester City or Chelsea in favour of the team on Merseyside. Before the transfer window closed on 1 August, no deal for the Southampton centre-back would be completed. The Premier League campaign would be in full swing before a deal with the officials at Southampton could be finalized to see the Dutch centre-back make his move to Merseyside. A fee of about 70 million pounds was agreed upon making him the most expensive defender of all time.

The 1 January would not come soon enough for Liverpool fans due to the large amount of mistakes that the Reds defence were making. Matches that should have been closed out were not. Matches that were winnable would end up as draws or losses. Liverpool had to maintain a high press the entire game because the fear of sitting in and closing out games frightened Jurgen Klopp and his staff. With the purchase of the massive Dutch centre-back, Klopp had that leader at the back he could finally rely on to close out those tight games.

Van Dijk sat out the first game that he was available, the Burnley away fixture, due to his lack of training with first team squad and he was not fully fit when he arrived at Melwood. The first match that Klopp informed the media that he would be available for was the FA Cup 3rd round fixture against Everton. Indeed, van Dijk would make his way into the lineup at centre-back for the FA Cup Merseyside Derby. Throughout the match, it was very obvious the leadership and stability that van Dijk brought to the team. His calm passing from the back, his aerial presence, and his command of the back line proved his worth of being the world’s most expensive defender. To cap off his debut, a game winning header off of a corner pushed the Reds into the fourth round. 

Since his debut, Liverpool’s defensive record has been the best that it has been in recent years. Van Dijk’s work ethic and drive to get better has spread throughout the Liverpool defence. Along with the van Dijk at centre-back, Lovren has been moved to his more comfortable right side and has flourished since van Dijk arrived. Lovren has transformed into a defensive dark horse that is evolving into a dominant force at the back. His confidence in his ability has grown and is paying huge dividends for Liverpool. Trent Alexander Arnold, the young English right-back, is also starting to become another very stable defender. His decision-making is steadily improving and his raw talent is shining through with dominant performances.With his dominant performances against the big clubs, he is pushing for a spot on England’s World Cup squad this summer. Andy Robertson, the young Scot that is taking the Kop by storm, is also starting to flourish at left back because of van Dijk and his ability to help the younger players learn and to guide them throughout matches. With the Scots determination and a love for football, van Dijk is proving to be a great mentor for Robertson because of his experience. Van Dijk’s success at the world stage and in the Dutch top flight, has given the back line of Liverpool an experienced veteran that was much-needed.

Before his arrival at Liverpool, van Dijk praised Klopp and his style of play, saying that he wished to join Liverpool and play under Klopp. When asked about Klopp, van Dijk states that “He is the complete manager” and that “He knew from day one that it was the right decision to come to Liverpool”. Klopp praised van Dijk stating that he “can be a special player” in an interview with Sky Sports in January. Van Dijk has lived up to Klopp’s expectations thus far, becoming that special player that every Liverpool fan wanted. 

Van Dijk could become Liverpool’s next captain with his leadership on and off of the pitch. Even if he does not become a captain for Liverpool, a natural leader at the back is needed in order to keep everyone in line and to inform the defensive midfielder of his position in front of the back line. The stability that he has offered within the defence has led the Reds into the Champions League semi finals and into a safe place in the top four of the Premier League. If we can manage to keep van Dijk and make more improvements in the midfield and defence, a Champions League and Premier League title is not far off for Liverpool…

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