Liverpool’s £75 million investment in Virgil van Dijk was laughed off as an absurd investment by plenty of fans and pundits in the January transfer window, but he has silenced those doubters by transforming Jurgen Klopp’s defence in 2018.
Indeed, an indifferent start to the 2017/18 season with Southampton had convinced onlookers that Van Dijk had flattered to deceive and was a waste of money for Liverpool, but that opinion has been firmly quashed by the impact he has made at Anfield.
His natural leadership qualities have shone through and his presence has brought the best out of the defensive unit as a whole.
Andrew Robertson’s performances at left-back have also played an instrumental role in Liverpool’s exponential improvement at the back, but Van Dijk certainly represents the glue that brings everything together.
His performances have been widely hailed throughout the British media and Sky Sports pundit Craig Bellamy is the latest to praise Van Dijk as he sang his praises on The Debate on Monday evening.
“But with Virgil van Dijk being there now, they have just shorn it up. Maybe they got a touch lucky with Man City missing that penalty, but I have seen enough from the Chelsea and City games that defensively they can see out games now even if they are not playing well.”
That Liverpool are now considered genuine title contenders is certainly a testament to the enormity of Van Dijk’s impact.
Prior to the arrival of the 21-cap Netherlands international, Liverpool were practically famed for their defensive fragility as Dejan Lovren became something of a laughing stock in central defence in the absence of a solid partner.
But Lovren’s enormous improvement and the rise of both Joe Gomez and Alexander-Arnold have partially arrived as a result of Van Dijk’s presence in the back-four.
He has a natural ability to not only deliver exemplary performances, but also to squeeze the best form out of his defensive teammates – a unique quality for which he deserves immense credit.
Bellamy is absolutely right to single out Van Dijk for praise despite the fact he almost cost Liverpool a point against Manchester City on Sunday afternoon by clumsily upending Leroy Sane in the penalty area, as there is no doubt that Klopp’s defence is a completely different animal to the one which struggled before his arrival.
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