Liverpool supporters have been reasonably satisfied in recent times after seeing their team maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League season over the weekend.
Jurgen Klopp’s men went into their trip to resurgent Arsenal having won eight and drawn the other two of their opening ten league games, and thus full of confidence ahead of their visit to North London on Saturday. And the Reds came away from the Emirates Stadium with a hard-fought point as an Alexandre Lacazette strike eight minutes from time cancelled out James Milner’s opener for the visitors to secure a 1-1 draw for Unai Emery’s side, a result which saw Liverpool slip to third in the table the day after following Chelsea’s win over Crystal Palace.
Nonetheless, there have been many satisfied Liverpudlians up and down the country in recent times, several of whom are likely to be interested in recent comments from BBC pundit Garth Crooks, who has made a massive and decisive claim about defender Virgil van Dijk by saying that he is currently the best centre back in the Premier League.
And given just how influential he has been ever since making the move to Anfield back in January, it’s hard to disagree with Crooks’ assessment of the Netherlands international.
Ultimately, there have been many great centre backs in the Premier League in recent years in Tottenham duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen as well as Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, to name but a few, but none of those appear to be at the level van Dijk is currently at.
The Dutchman made the big money move to Liverpool back in January as Klopp sought to finally solve his glaring defensive issues out, and the difference between the Reds pre-van Dijk and with the 27-year-old in the team can hardly be more obvious.
Prior to van Dijk’s arrival, the Merseysiders were very vulnerable at the back and the likes of Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, and Ragnar Klavan made several errors between them to allow teams to really get at Klopp’s side – they conceded more goals in the 2016/17 season than any other team that finished in the top four.
Yet they are now one of the best sides defensively in the Premier League in shipping just five goals in their opening 11 league games of the campaign, keeping six clean sheets along the way – and van Dijk has played as big a part as anyone in that improvement.
Be it his overall presence in the heart of the backline, or indeed forcing others to improve their own game, with Lovren perhaps the most obvious example, the 27-year-old’s influence on the Reds backline simply cannot be understated – and that’s what the best centre backs are able to do.
And while the likes of Alderweireld, Vertonghen, and Kompany, to name but a few, continue to produce the goods in the Premier League, they simply aren’t at the level van Dijk is currently at – Crook’s decisive verdict that he is the best in the league is absolutely spot on.
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