Virgil van Dijk, Red as a picket

Virgil van Dijk, Red as a picket

Defeated on Monday by Manchester United at Old Trafford (2-1), Liverpool still haven’t won a single game in the Premier League and are already seven points behind Arsenal. The worst start to the season under the Klopp era. Even more worrying, the defense of Reds is far from being a guarantee of serenity for the rest of the season. And to boil it all down, it is Virgil van Dijk who inspires the least confidence. After a 2021-2022 season to great fanfare, the colossus of scousers chain of disappointments Until finishing as a figure skater on the canvas.

“I only saw one player who tried to stop Sancho’s action. Let me put it like this. milli (James Milner) I tried, and there wasn’t much help around. » It was with his eyes at half-staff, perhaps a little embarrassed and bitterness on the verge of his lips, that Jürgen Klopp again scored Manchester United’s first goal in the derby at the start of the week (2-1). Pushed to reconsider Virgil van Dijk’s surprising defensive choice, preferring to stand still two meters from Alisson’s goal rather than climb onto the Mancunian, the German strategist twirled his tongue in his mouth seven times before attempting to explain this sequence in a press. . conference. At the same time, the coach Reds Never has he questioned himself so much about the setbacks of his colossus.

Bad habit

After just over two weeks of competition, Klopp undoubtedly understood that he was going to have to get used to it. Moved by Aleksandar Mitrović at Craven Cottage as Liverpool entered the English top flight on August 6 (2-2), Van Dijk even allowed Fulham to take the lead in the second half after a late intervention that cost him a penalty. to the team. Reds. With his hands in his pockets, Klopp had calmly kicked in front of the journalists at the end of the meeting: “Was there really a penalty? I heard he touched the ball. But well, the result is really the best news of this meeting. » Against Crystal Palace on matchday two (1-1), the Dutch defender was not exempt from some reproach at the start of the scoreboard Eagles. Away from Wilfried Zaha at the end of Eberechi Eze’s perfectly directed counterattack, Van Dijk did not close the space and let the Ivorian striker try his luck. There too, the a normal one he preferred to dwell on the formidable efficiency of Patrick Vieira’s players: “They scored on their first counterattack. Unfortunately, Eze managed to break free in the middle and Zaha’s speed and finishing did the rest. At that moment they showed how good they were in projection and how difficult it was to play against them. » After these first days, Van Dijk finally managed to attract the wrath of his coach. In addition to that of James Milner, furious after the premiere, that he did not hesitate to pull the straps on his partner after the performance of Jadon Sancho. “It was your ball. I was your player! You have to go out with him! » , we can read on the lips of old brisquard. Never so reviled on the set of British television since his arrival on the banks of the Mersey, Van Dijk also quickly became the scapegoat for many a social media following. Until becoming the one who prefers individual statistics to collective results.

What about defending with your arms crossed?

If some point to a possible carelessness of the 31-year-old defender, too sure of himself in these decisive moments, others believe that he does not want to run the risk of throwing himself on the opposing player and thus not having to play. a duel he might lose, in an effort to keep his stats intact. Two visions of the problem that almost border on the ridiculous, but that allow us to raise some concerns, this time realistic, about Van Dijk’s start to the season. He dribbled five times in his 34 Premier League appearances last season, the Scouser he has already been outplayed twice in his first three games. A statistic that adds to the lackluster performance of the main affected at Old Trafford on Monday: two failed interception attempts, a foul conceded and therefore this apathy in the first goal.

Van Dijk, however, is not the only one responsible for the opening of the Mancunian marker. Deep down, he is even the only player who doesn’t dive into Jadon Sancho’s fake hit. And it was precisely when the former Borussia Dortmund resident had not yet had the opportunity to fully assess the different options that he had at his disposal that the Dutchman had to tighten, close the angle and do anything to annoy Sancho. But then, which is the most flawed Liverpool player, if not both? Milner or Van Dijk? Is it better to unscrupulously pounce on the ball carrier a few meters from their own cages or wait? Everyone has their own truth, although everyone will agree that when Van Dijk plays poorly, Liverpool do poorly. And in the ranks affected by injuries at the beginning of the 2022-2023 financial year -which notably pushed Klopp to align three different hinges during the first games-, the pillar of the defense of the Reds he has every interest in raising his level of play, in which case Klopp’s machine could slip.

By Mateo Darbas

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