Van Dijk’s class continues to shine through for Liverpool

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Virgil van Dijk’s been nothing short of exceptional since joining Liverpool in January for a staggering £75 million from Southampton.

Proving his worth again and again, the towering Dutchman has been instrumental towards the Reds’ brilliant start to the campaign and why they now look so formidable defensively. Van Dijk’s all encompassing performance in Liverpool’s dynamic win over Paris Saint-Germain offered another example of what a superb asset he is to Jurgen Klopp.

Facing off against one of the most fearsome frontlines in world football, he played a crucial role in making sure Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar endured a tough night at the office.

Physical, athletic and intelligent, he undertook his defensive work with the utmost authority and conviction. Indeed, being so coherent and forthright in his decision making granted him the ideal platform to nullify PSG’s multifaceted strikeforce. Showcasing terrific concentration and always checking his surroundings, the 27-year-old flawlessly chose when to step out and press his man, hold his post, shift across to support a teammate, drop back in unison with his backline or when to track a run in behind.

While his ability to read the play shone brightly, his speed was of equal importance, as this allowed him to rapidly jet across and cover any runs that had been missed by a colleague in wide areas or in transition. Clocked at a scintillating 32.4km/h, quicker than both Neymar or Mbappe recorded, this aspect of his armoury only compounded Thomas Tuchel’s side’s struggles to get the better of him.

Meanwhile, in battles of strength and aerial duels, the colossal 193 cm stopper made life extremely difficult for his adversaries here too. Possessing a powerful leap, hard to outmuscle and very adept at picking up the ball’s flight in the air, so he can duly adjust his body shape, Van Dijk hardly missed in a step in such confrontations.

Remaining well organised for the most part, the Dutch international could be constantly seen communicating and gesturing to his defensive confidantes when to hold their post, shift cross or move forwards or backwards. Another point of note that greatly assisted his, and his teammates’, effectiveness came from the wonderful protection provided to them by Liverpool’s energetic midfield.

Moving onto his offensive contribution, and the Breda born defender passed the ball with aplomb, where he did a top job of changing the angle of attacks, hitting penetrative line breaking passes and constructing attacking moves. Upon factoring in his ball carrying prowess, which often successfully provoked pressing actions to generate a free man or open an exploitable passing lanes, and he was a menace here too.

By the numbers, the fact he completed 94% of his 71 attempted passes, hit nine accurate long balls, made two key passes and chimed in with nine defensive actions demonstrated his fantastic contribution.

In his post-match comments, it was clear to tell how much he’s loving life at Anfield under Klopp’s tutelage, gleaming: “I’m enjoying every single bit of it. You know, it’s a great time to be a Liverpool player, you want to play these games, you want to play these clubs we are going to face. You want to play at the highest level (and), you know, enjoy it.

“I want to win things, I want to create memories here and write history as well with all these boys. You need to have ambitions, and with the size of this club, with the people around here and the history of the club, we want to try and win everything.”

Having unquestionably improved this sensational Liverpool team in the area that most needed addressing, Van Dijk’s impact is now a significant reason why the club are now considered genuine challengers for both the Premier League and the Champions League.

With every passing match, he continues to vindicate the club’s decision to fork out that sideable £75 million transfer fee. He’s just been so good.

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John Stones: the next Kompany?

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2024703-1170x658While it is hardly a surprise these days to see defenders like Harry Maguire command reported bids worth £100million following noteworthy performances in the world cup, it was hardly the case till recently. Clubs were increasingly hesitant when expected to indulge in big-money deals for defenders who did not enjoy a proven track record with a largely orthodox approach at play.

At the same time, they were more than happy to invest a lion’s share of their finances behind attacking recruits who were considered safe investments in comparison. The underlying belief rested on the misconception that the acquisition of quality attackers had the ability to determine the overall fortunes in the long run, considering their commercial value with the defensive department deemed expendable in nature.

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Fantasy EPL Predictions: Matchweek 4

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Leicester vs Liverpool – King Power Stadium

While Maguire’s 95th minute winner will certainly send the Foxes tail up into this clash against the early league leaders, we think Liverpool will continue building their defensive record this season and claim the win. Fantasy managers who own stock in the Anfield Defense will look ahead with joy, as Leicester will be without Jamie Vardy, whose scoring record against the Reds is remarkable – 7 strikes in 5 games.

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Chelsea need to figure out their defensive woes

sarriIt has been a great start to the Premier League season for Chelsea in terms of results. They beat Huddersfield comfortably in the first match of the season, 3-0, before winning a thrilling contest against Arsenal 3-2 last weekend at Stamford Bridge.

If there is one thing that we have learned from the first two games, it’s that Chelsea are really trying to play Maurizio Sarri’s style of football. The players all seem to have bought in to the manager’s philosophy.

Unfortunately, to get going properly under Sarri, it takes time. This is something he was not afforded as he was not even in charge of the squad from the first day of preseason training. We are starting to see now what the delay has cost the Blues and their Italian manager. Continue reading

EPL Player of the Week – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

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Much of the talk ahead of Week 2 of the Premier League season surrounded Manchester United and Manchester City, with Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho aiming a dig at last season’s champions following the release of their “disrespectful” ‘All Or Nothing’ documentary series.

After opening-weekend victories for both Manchester sides, United followed up their 2-1 win over Leicester City with a surprising 3-2 defeat away to Brighton, while City continued their impressive start to the campaign by running riot with a 6-1 victory against Huddersfield Town.

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Manchester United should go after Leonardo Bonucci

bonucci-milan-webLast night at 8:00pm Pacific Time, Manchester United faced off against AC Milan in their first match of the International Champions Cup. One thing was painfully noticeable for United: they are in desperate need of a center back.

The pairing of Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling were not up to the task, as the Milan attack caused them problems all evening long. Yes, it was just a preseason friendly and there is still time before the Premier League begins on August 10th; however, the defense is a major question mark for the club and last night provided no reassurances. Jamie Vardy and Leicester City will be knocking on their door at Old Trafford before you know it.  Continue reading

Paul Pogba must mimic his France performance at Manchester United

pogba-goal-france-australia-world-cupIt might be crazy to wonder whether someone who cost Manchester United 89 million pounds is headed for a breakout year, but that’s precisely where we are with Paul Pogba.

The French international has had a very commanding, consistent display at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and one can’t help but wonder why the consistency is showing for France when it alluded him all season at United.To begin to answer the question, we must look at his season and experience in Manchester.  Continue reading

Does Chelsea’s current personnel fit Sarri’s sytem?

JorginhoThe latest news report out of Italy are stating that Maurizio Sarri will indeed finally takeover the Chelsea bench. The rumors have been circulating for a while, so until Sarri actually puts pen to the paper, nothing is definite. We can, however, begin to look at the current Chelsea squad to decipher which players would fit Sarri’s system.

The news is reporting that not only will Sarri join Chelsea, but so will Jorginho. In a separate article for eurofantasyleague.com, we looked at why Jorginho would be a key signing for Chelsea if they were going forward with Sarri.  Continue reading

Should Manchester United swoop in for Ronaldo?

Cristiano RonaldoThere have been many, many rumors over the past couple of weeks. Cristiano Ronaldo seems headed for Juventus. Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid seems to be a saga we’ve been following every summer for the past few seasons, so we should take these rumors with a grain of salt.

Yet, this time it seems sort of real. In the past, rumors would surface that Ronaldo was upset with Real and had decided to leave,but would always stay. So what’s the difference this time? Well, for starters, in the past there weren’t actual negotiations or numbers being discussed.

Manchester United had always been the rumored favorite to land him because of their history, but there was never any concrete talk of negotiations or a price tag.  Continue reading

Chelsea’s delayed signing is setting Maurizio Sarri up for failure

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Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea has been spoken about so much that it seems like a done deal. Only, it isn’t.

As of now, the facts remain the same: Antonio Conte is the manager of Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri is still employed by Napoli. This remains a problem for all four parties involved. Why? Well Conte is the manager of a club who doesn’t want him. Sarri is employed by a club who has no use for him. Chelsea can’t get their transfer campaign started until this is resolved, and Napoli are paying two coaches to do one job.

At the end of the day, the bigger problem lies with Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri; however, as Conte has a huge buyout clause in his contract and will be paid very well to walk away. Napoli also have their coach in place and have begun signing new players, therefore, they are not affected by Sarri still being on the books.  Continue reading