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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