The Liverpool fans have been in buoyant mood in the Transfer Tavern this week since their side recorded a headline-stealing 5-0 victory over FC Porto at Estadio Do Dragao on Wednesday night.
Jurgen Klopp’s side placed one foot firmly in the quarter-finals of the Champions League this week after making light work of their tricky-looking tie against the Portuguese giants. The performances of Liverpool’s front-three, namely Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah deservedly dominated the post-match narrative after the trio combined to devastating effect on multiple occasions throughout the evening.
However, one of the most pleasing aspects of Liverpool’s performance was the solidity of their defensive unit which has been deservedly criticised by fans and pundits alike on a consistent basis throughout the campaign so far. Liverpool’s need for defensive improvement has been blatantly obvious for quite some time now, and the club made a huge stride towards transforming their defence with the acquisition of Virgil Van Dijk (valued at £45 million by Transfermarkt) last month.
Since his arrival, Van Dijk’s performances have been closely scrutinised due to his hefty world-record breaking £75 million price-tag, and so far he has enjoyed mixed reviews from pundits and fans alike. Generally, Van Dijk has been solid and brought solidity to a defence which has been lacklustre and untrustworthy for a long time under Jurgen Klopp, but his mistake which cost his side three points against Tottenham Hotspur in January somewhat tarnished a solid opening to his Liverpool career.
Although Van Dijk’s challenge on Lamela which handed Tottenham a 95th-minute penalty was extremely rash under the circumstances, it must be considered that this is the Dutch internationals first spell at a club where top-four ambitions are at stake, so mistakes such as these are understandable. But Liverpool’s record-signing will not be able to use that excuse for too long, as high-profile mistakes could prove costly in The Reds bid to mount a title-challenge next season.
The form of Van Dijk will undoubtedly be one of the most instrumental factors in the success Liverpool enjoy in the Premier League next year. If he can stamp out costly mistakes and effectively organise Liverpool’s defence then they will have a fantastic opportunity to rival Man City for the Premier League title, but if he fails to deal with the added pressure that arrives with a move to Anfield then the supporters can expect nothing more than a top-four finish.