Have we all underestimated Joel Matip’s quality?

Three goals to the good and cruising, Liverpool had very little to worry about especially with Virgil Van Dijk, the supposed best centre back of his generation, on the pitch. Within 21 minutes, though, the Anfield side had been pegged back to 3-3 by Red Bull Salzburg. Van Dijk had been at fault for at least one of the three goals conceded.

This, of course, was something of a freak event. Van Dijk is indeed the best defender in the European game right now. That he would have such a dismal second half performance against a team a side of Liverpool’s calibre should have seen off with ease was utterly unpredictable.

It raised questions of whether Van Dijk’s usual centre back partner, who was missing through injury for this match, had been underestimated all this time. Joel Matip has been the Dutchman’s partner for the best part of a year, but alongside Joe Gomez Liverpool looked much more vulnerable in defence.

Matip has long been viewed as the lesser of Liverpool’s two centre backs. In fact, some have even identified the German as a weak link in Jurgen Klopp’s team, a component to be exposed. Many have argued that the Anfield side should go back into the transfer window to sign a better, more accomplished replacement.

It’s true that Matip doesn’t always cut the most composed figure at the back for the Reds. His languid, gangly isn’t the most natural of fits for Klopp’s otherwise stylish side. However, it would seem that he has forged an understanding with Van Dijk at the back that gives the Reds their steadiest basis.

Gomez has a higher ceiling than Matip. Indeed, the young England international will most likely surpass the German at one point or another. But with Liverpool currently embarking on their most significant league season in a generation, Klopp doesn’t have time for much experimentation and Matip is his second best central defender.

Much has been made of the way Van Dijk has steadied the Liverpool defence and those around him since his arrival from Southampton 18 months ago. But on the basis of what happened on Wednesday night in the Champions League, Matip has a similar sort of calming effect on his team and on Van Dijk. Their partnership has become a mutually beneficial one and the Reds need the German back from injury as soon as possible.

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Football turns back time as Lionel Messi wins The Best Fifa Award

Lionel Messi has won ‘The Best’ Fifa award ahead of Virgil van dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo and it feels as though the clock has been turned back.

This isn’t to say that Messi didn’t deserve it, because technically he is far and away the best player in the world, but it had been a few years since Messi had picked up any type of best footballer award and it will be very welcome to him that he has been recognised once more.

Messi was brilliant in the league as usual as Barcelona won another title and in all competitions he scored over 50 goals, which for his age and consistency is just simply breathtaking.

There would be disappointments for him of course. Namely the Champions League where it was clear that Barcelona threw away the chance to win it. Having a superb run into the semi final 2nd leg and leading Liverpool 3-0, they disintegrated at Anfield and lost 4-0 to lose 4-3 on aggregate. Had they kept their shape and nerve surely they would have beaten Tottenham in the final?

In the Copa del Rey, Barcelona were shocked and beaten in the final and the Copa America ended yet again in misery for him. But Messi for the first time in a few years has been recognised for his consistency in the past season, and that should be applauded.

Liverpool’s Virgil van dijk might feel aggreived along with betting punters as he was 1/5 to win the award, and his name did seem on it. Van dijk was instrumental in Liverpool’s Champions League win and the club came 2nd with 97 points in the Premier League too Manchester City. He had a wonderful season no doubt.

Missing from the gala event in Italy was Cristiano Ronaldo and given that he now plays in the country one has to wonder if information slipped out to the Juventus hit man that he wasn’t going to win the award, and so stayed away. If so this should be a story given that betting is permitted on the event, but it will probably go mostly unnoticed.

Ronaldo would have felt upset and after winning the league with Juventus and the UEFA Nations League with Portugal he might just have a point. Are UEFA declaring that the Nations League isn’t really that important after all? If it had been the Euro’s surely that would have been enough for Ronaldo to win the award.

What can be agreed at the end of the day is that the whittled down nominees are all great players and deserved to win, there can only be one and as good as he is maybe Messi’s victory has come as a surprise to some.

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Virgil van dijk is the favourite to win world player of the year- but does he deserve it?

The FIFA world player of the year now known as the childish title of ‘The Best’ has been announced. The nominated players have been whittled down to 3 players, 2 attackers and one defender. Liverpool’s Virgil van dijk is the favourite to scoop the award and he will have to fend off competition from the usual suspects in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but who out of the three of them deserve the award, and does van dijk deserve it overall anyway?

Messi and Ronaldo seem to have won the award more than me and you have had hot dinners. This year was partly successful for both. Messi won the league with Barcelona and scored 36 goals in the league, his 4th best record and 51 goals in all competitions. He had some wonderful memorable games both in the league and the Champions League, but ultimately Barca came undone, their fall from grace against Liverpool will live in the memory for some time, 3-0 up in the first leg they went to Anfield and lost 4-0. All of this plays against Messi’s greatness, and it’s fair to say that even though he is the best player in the world techincally, in 2019 this wasn’t his best year.

Ronaldo made the switch to Serie A to play for Juventus and the old lady as they are known romped home to an 8th Italian title in a row. Ronado helped that cause and was a major factor. He scored 21 goals in the league, which was good for Italy but still his lowest league total in 10 years. He boosted his chances of winning this competition when Portugal won the first ever UEFA Nations League beating the Netherlands in the final. But there would still be disappointment as Juventus mainly brought in Ronaldo to win their first Champions League since 1996, he was not able to achieve that as Juventus were knocked out in the quarter finals against a young Ajax side.

And now to Virgil van dijk who was utterly brilliant for Liverpool last season, not only did he defend in a world class manner he also knew how to pop up and score the odd goal too. Liverpool won the Champions League and came 2nd in the league, only by 1 point as 97 points and losing just 1 game all season was not good enough to beat Manchester City in a quite epic battle.

Liverpool conceded just 22 goals in the league last season which was the best defensive record in the top tier. Out of the 3 players chosen for the award it seems clear that van dijk deserves it, just over Ronaldo. But let’s look more into this, and wonder if FIFA have got the top 3 players chosen wrong and why is van dijk being chosen out of the Liverpool’s other defenders?

When we look at the Fantasy statistics from last season, the three chosen should have been Lionel Messi, Dusan Tadic and Mohamed Salah, with Messi winning. Although one must remember that these points are based on league form only. Virgil van dijk on league form only would have finished in 13th place. Though it should be noted he was No.1. in the category of defenders.

van dijk finished with 119 points whilst his team mate and defender Andrew Robertson finished with 118 points, and yet both had 21 clean sheets and Robertson had an incredible 11 assists to van dijk’s 2, although van dijk garnered a lot of points from scoring 4 goals. Still the case for Robertson to be included as one of the nominee’s in player of the year is strong, and one can wonder with all validity why he wasn’t.

We could go one better and wonder why Liverpool goal keeper Alisson wasn’t included. He got more points than van dijk last season and was surely instrumental in Liverpool’s fantastic league run and Champions League win. Given it was his debut season with the Reds he was superb and kept 21 clean sheets. Does he get punished because he didn’t score enough goals? That sounds as silly as it seems.

Anyway van dijk has been chosen to represent the Liverpool team and he probably does deserve the award. He has been more consistent and will be a top player for a good 5-6 years yet. Even Messi and Ronaldo won’t be able to stop him winning the award this year.

 

Top Premier League Defenders in 2018/19 – Kyle Walker

Kyle Walker

Manchester City defender Kyle Walker picked up another Premier League winner’s medal when his side held off the challenge of Liverpool to win the title by one point back in May.

Walker was also the fourth-highest scoring defender in EPL fantasy football for the season with 89 points from his 33 appearances (30 starts).

Aymeric Laporte was the only City defender ahead of Walker. Laporte earned 100 points in 2018/19.

Liverpool’s trio of Virgil van Dijk (119 points), Andrew Robertson (118) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (102) were first, second, and third respectively. Continue reading

Top Premier League Defenders in 2018/19 – Aymeric Laporte

Aymeric Laporte

Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte was the highest-scoring non-Liverpool defender in fantasy EPL last season.

The 25-year-old French centre-back joined Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team in January 2018 for €65 million from LaLiga’s Athletic Bilbao.

Since then, he has gone on to be recognised as one of the best defenders in the English Premier League with his consistent performances at the heart of the City backline.

At just 6.5 million, Laporte was a bargain for EPL fantasy managers last season. After impressing so well, his price is likely to increase before the 2019/20 campaign gets underway. Continue reading

Top Premier League Defenders in 2018/19 – Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Hard as it may be to believe, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (TAA) is still only 20-years-old.

The right-back has already played in two Champions League finals, a World Cup, and been involved in an epic Premier League title race.

TAA was the third-highest scoring defender in 2018/19′s fantasy EPL game, just behind his Reds teammates – Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson.

He managed to accumulate 102 EPL fantasy football points from just 27 starts and two substitute appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side. Continue reading

The case for Virgil van Dijk to win the Ballon D’or

Van Dijk Liverpool Ballon D'or

Such has been the dominance enjoyed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon D’Or over the past decade, the notion that any player other than the two could win it is often scoffed at. Virgil van Dijk, however, is not receiving such treatment.

Fresh from Champions League glory, the Dutchman finds himself at the front of an altogether different competition. Van Dijk is currently the bookmakers favourite to win the Ballon d’Or. He’s ahead of the aforementioned Messi and Ronaldo, as well as Kylian Mbappe, Liverpool teammates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane and Raheem Sterling.

In fact, he’s the only defender on the list with odds shorter than 100/1, with Marcelo and Diego Godin the next on the list. Continue reading

Van Dijk and Alisson the stars of Liverpool’s Champions League success

Van Dijk Alisson Champions League

Madrid has often been where Champions League legends are made, and that proved to be the case for Liverpool. This year’s Champions League final won’t go down as one of the best, indeed in many aspects, it was among the worst, but Liverpool won’t mind one bit.

This side have battled their way back throughout the Champions League this season, and it was no different in the final. The natural rhythm, tempo and desire were lacking from Jurgen Klopp’s side. Instead, they had to battle, scrap and find something much deeper to ensure they were lifting a sixth European crown by the evening’s end. This Liverpool side have transformed under Klopp this year. The swashbuckling, cavalier team of the past has made way for one that has much more about it. Continue reading

Top Premier League Defenders in 2018/19 – Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk

It’s certainly no surprise that Virgil van Dijk was the top performing defender in this season’s EPL fantasy football.

The PFA Players’ Player of the Year has turned out to be one of Liverpool’s best-ever signings, having an immediately huge impact on what was an extremely leaky Reds defence.

Van Dijk started every one of Liverpool’s 38 Premier League fixtures this season. He helped them to the best defensive record in the league as The Reds finished just one agonising point behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in the title race. Continue reading

No shame in second for Liverpool

Liverpool second Premier League Klopp Van Dijk Robertson Salah Mane

Bill Shankly famously said that finishing second is nothing. Even he, though, would have been tempted to revise that statement when discussing this current Liverpool team. Describing this team as failures would be cruel in the extreme.

While the overarching desire is to look back at this past season and mourn the death of another potential title win, the reaction should be the opposite. Liverpool should be celebrating a glorious campaign and the fact that it happened in the first place. Jurgen Klopp’s side have impressed beyond belief over the past year. Suggestions that they have done anything but succeed this season are not worth listening to. Klopp will certainly be sharing that message among his group.  Continue reading