Liverpool, to the surprise of many, smashed the world record transfer fee for a defender to bring Virgil Van Dijk to Anfield at the start of this year. A lot of critics believed that the Reds paid over the odds for the Dutch talent and the jury was still out on whether he could cope up with the high expectation that came with joining a prestigious club like Liverpool.
However, Van Dijk has proven to be a substantial presence at the heart of the Reds defence and has consistently improved his game over the course of this year. He is a natural leader and organised Jurgen Klopp’s defence well, and the club has finally stopped conceding cheap goals. The likes of Dejan Lovren, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson and Joe Gomez have all improved with Van Dijk guiding them in defence throughout this year.
It is no secret that the Merseyside outfit’s defending has improved considerably since the Dutch international’s arrival earlier this year. Now the real question is whether he has transformed the club into one of the defensive sides in the division?
The Van Dijk Effect
Since Liverpool’s humiliating 4-1 defeat away at Tottenham Hotspur last season, Klopp’s side has conceded just 22 goals in 30 matches while keeping 15 clean sheets, which is the best defensive record in the Premier League. They have also allowed a league-low of 70 shots on target. The rapid transformation has mostly been down to Van Dijk’s organisational and leadership skills. Klopp finally has a defender who can lead by example and can motivate his teammates around him. Hence, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Reds are doing so well defensively since the turn of the year.
Is The Dutch Centre-back Currently The Best In The Premier League?
Van Dijk’s stats might not be as impressive as some of the other players in his position. However, the fact that he can get the best out of his teammates and his unbelievable talent to deliver a match-winning performance when the going gets tough, as evidenced by his showing against Crystal Palace on Monday night, makes him one of the most valuable defensive asset in the English top-flight.
Can Liverpool Keep Up The Defensive Record?
With no goals conceded so far, Liverpool have begun their new campaign outstandingly with two victories on the spin against West Ham United and Palace respectively. With both Van Dijk and Gomez developing a good partnership in central defence, there is no reason why they can’t keep it going. They would concede goals from time to time but as long as it’s not that often, then the Reds supporters would accept that in a heartbeat.
Van Dijk might not be the best defender in the Premier League, but his contributions have helped Liverpool become a much better defensive side than the one we witnessed last season.