The wonderful moment finally came upon us. It was maybe six months later than most hoped for, but be that as it may Virgil van Dijk has now been officially announced as a player for Liverpool Football Club as of January 1st, 2018. No pressure now Virgil, but your reaction has been welcomed by Liverpool supporters far and wide as the biggest saviour since Jesus Christ himself. How appropriately apt though that for many Reds, the van Dijk announcement was seen as the most welcome of late Christmas gifts.
All jokes aside however, the addition of a player with the quality of Virgil van Dijk makes this squad better immediately. He is by no means a flash in the pan. He has been performing at an elite level for years now, and even brings Champions League experience with him from his time at Celtic. The news is indeed joyous but many questions do remain not just for now but also looking into what the future holds for both the player, the club and his new teammates. So without further ado, let’s break it all down…
That Price Though…
Rival supporters and neutrals alike seem particularly keen to point how absurd the transfer fee was. Yes 75 million pounds is an awful lot of money, yes Virgil is now the most expensive defender of all time, and a few years ago you could buy almost 9 Philippe Coutinho’s for that price but in all honesty… who really cares???
There are just too many reasons why the cost is largely irrelevant. Firstly, it’s not our money, and most importantly of all it was certainly a position of need for the squad so you sometimes need to pay that extra premium for those items that are particularly in demand. The signing of van Dijk represents less risk than signing a similar player from abroad as we can be pretty sure that he is well adapted to English football which was another huge factor in the inflated fee.
The value of money in the Premier League domain has also certainly changed drastically especially over the past 12 months. My above joke about Coutinho is only one example of how the landscape of football transfers looks so different now. Transfer costs are no longer logical or comprehensible to the common man. We simply have to accept that this is now the norm in football. To compete with the likes of the Manchester clubs and Chelsea, we simply have to spend to try and keep up.
At the end of the day, van Dijk was identified by Jurgen Klopp in the summer as his primary target and now he is finally here. That is really all that matters.
One Player Cannot Fix It
We have had all sorts of contrasting and crazy views on the standard of defending at the club this season. It was never quite as bad as it seemed at the worst of times, but it was also evident that it was an area that needed strengthening in the future. Whether we have Virgil van Dijk or Franz Beckenbauer back there, the way this team plays still will quite often leave our defenders exposed. This problem won’t magically disappear with the addition of van Dijk but it should at the very least lessen the risk.
Until a specialist defensive midfielder is also recruited to our ranks, this problem will remain a pressing issue. Jordan Henderson has filled in admirably but he is far better utilized in a more attacking role. Naby Keita will also improve the situation but once again he is also not a pure holder.
Therefore, Virgil will make our team better but we cannot pretend that his arrival will magically eradicate all the defensive issues that do tend to pop up from time to time but it is a very large stepping stone in the right direction…
Van Dijk’s Questionable Form This Season
Phil Coutinho has been a shining example of how to put the disappointment of missing out on the transfer of his dreams behind him in performing brilliantly this season. Virgil van Dijk on the other hand has been noticeably… well… just… uninterested this season. It is hard to blame the big Dutchman too much. After all, he was available to play and never threatened to go on strike or anything.
Yet it is difficult not to be just a little concerned by the absence of his top form this year to date. Even the best of players can rarely simply snap out of a funk and decide to play better. It is a mindset, a question of timing and routine which he really hasn’t been putting into action for almost a year now considering also his injury in the second half of last season. The chances are very high that Virgil may need a few weeks at the least before he is back at his best. It is just something to be aware of when setting expectations.
Strongest Back Four
Now here is the million dollar question. Now the dust has finally settled, who will be standing when Klopp picks his starting back four. They may have their detractors but Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan have been nothing less than stellar over the last month or so. Any goals conceded have certainly not been anything directly due to them. They have been a beacon of consistency. The return of the supposed wonder child Joel Matip indicates to many that he should partner van Dijk. I have long been of the opinion that Matip is nowhere near the defensive rock many believe him to be and overall I feel much safer in this current time with Lovren and Klavan. Perhaps it is the emergence of Andy Robertson which has a more solidifying impact over anything else? Food for thought!
In the longterm though, we can assume that van Dijk will start most frequently. My personal preference would be to have Lovren alongside him for the bigger games, with Matip coming in as the extra creative force when trying to unlock the supposed weaker sides in the league. Klavan can then return to his speciality role of super deputy. This is not even to mention the possibility of Joe Gomez slotting back to his more natural centre half position after the return go Nathaniel Clyne. Dare I say the centre half depth looks very solid for the Reds. There are certainly plenty of options for the boss to consider.
What It All Means
Our squad and first team got a massive boost with the arrival of Virgil van Dijk. In one fell swoop, our prospects for chasing that top four spot, and progressing further in the FA Cup and Champions League increased greatly. Once again we have been given a demonstration of the player pulling power of Jurgen Klopp. He may have his but Klopp is perfect for this club in my eyes. He is the man to take us back to the elusive promised land and despite a few early warning signs to be aware of, the signing of van Dijk is another massive moment in the Kloppolution. The top of that mountain is starting to come into sight fellow Reds… bring on 2018!