Why Virgil van Dijk will hit top form for Liverpool this season
Virgil van Dijk’s arrival has significantly strengthened Liverpool‘s back line. The Dutchman arrived in the January window, after a controversial transfer saga in the previous window which led to Southampton ending negotiations with Liverpool (h/t The Guardian).
But the Reds ultimately snapped up their man for a world record fee of £75 million and the Dutchman has looked a class signing since then. Not only has he transformed the complete back line, but Liverpool tend to play more confidently with him around.
Now, Jurgen Klopp’s men need not worry as much about the defensive part of their game. The Dutchman is a tall and imposing defender who can strike fear into any striker who comes up against him. He’s a colossal defender who wins any ball that comes his way.
Liverpool haven’t conceded at home in the league since February with van Dijk arriving just a month before. Coincidence? Of course not.
What’s even more surprising is the rise in Dejan Lovren’s form. The Croatian looks quite confident and composed when partnered with van Dijk. It’s almost as if he instils a feeling of self-confidence amongst his fellow defenders as well. In one season, Liverpool have found a gem of a left-back, a right-back for the future and a confident Lovren, all with van Dijk in the squad.
The Dutchman is a tough-tackling defender who never shies away from a challenge. He’s dominant in the air, posing an aerial threat from almost every single delivery. The centre-back announced himself to the club by scoring a header against Merseyside rivals Everton on his Liverpool debut.
The 27-year-old averaged a tackle rate of 60% across the whole campaign last season. He also won a whopping 139 aerial battles for the club, since arriving in January. His passing ability on the ball is quite commendable as well. In the 4-0 thrashing of West Ham United last weekend, van Dijk averaged a pass success rate of 98.4%.
It’s hard to find a defender who is as complete, confident and reliable at the back. Sure, there are others but they are probably not as young as van Dijk, who is playing at the peak of his prime days.
What Liverpool always needed was a leader at back and van Dijk is the epitome of leadership. There’s no denying that he’s the best centre-back Liverpool have had since the days of Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher.
Now that he has acclimatized himself with Liverpool and Klopp’s philosophy, the centre-back is capable of improving and developing further. He will surely play a huge role in the title race and could be the one that ultimately ensures Liverpool make it.