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A hammer blow – Why the loss of £180k-a-week superstar could derail Liverpool’s title defense

Why Virgil Van Dijk injury is a hammer blow for Liverpool

Liverpool’s worst fear has come to reality as Virgil Van Dijk suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury and faces a long layoff from action as confirmed by BBC Sport. The defender could not continue in the Merseyside derby after a challenge from Jordan Pickford.

Van Dijk’s unparalleled contribution and impact at Liverpool

Anyone would be worried if their club’s best player faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines. For Liverpool, that is as bad as it gets. In two and a half years that the towering Dutchman has been at the club, he has never had serious injury problems.

It speaks about his impact on the team that the club secured a coveted Champions League in 2019 and the much-awaited Premier League title earlier this year. History has seen very few players who have transformed a club by themselves. Van Dijk can claim to be one of them.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – JULY 22: Jordan Henderson and Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool celebrate following the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield on July 22, 2020 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Paul Ellis/Pool via Getty Images)

Even though Klopp was doing good work at Liverpool before 2018, there was always a feeling that something was missing. Liverpool had to suffer the defensive inadequacies of the likes of Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho. The general consensus was that the club lacked a leader in defence. Someone who could take control of the situation and guide the other defenders.

The introduction of the £180,000-a-week Van Dijk was all it took to get Liverpool from the status of also-rans to champions.

His injury can derail Liverpool’s season

For a player who has had so much impact on a club, his injury could well throw their season in jeopardy. Klopp can replace any of his star players with adequate replacements. But who do you call on as a replacement for probably the world’s best centre-back?

Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are decent defenders but they play better with Van Dijk alongside them. They cannot organise the defence in the way the colossal defender can. To sum it up, they are not leaders.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 17: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool reacts as he walks off the pitch after picking up an injury during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Given the condensed season, due to the pandemic that has already taken a toll on teams due to fixture congestion, clubs cannot afford injuries to players. Let alone their best players. With an unknown return date, Liverpool fans might be cursing Jordan Pickford.

Liverpool have already looked fragile this season as we saw against Leeds and Aston Villa. They conceded those goals despite the presence of Van Dijk. So you can imagine what Klopp would be thinking now that he is unable to call on his trusted lieutenant.

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In a season that was expected to be a test of Liverpool’s credentials, they have already lost one of their biggest weapons. There is every chance that the league is now for the taking for any team and Liverpool should well be worried about that coming to fruition.

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