Virgil van Dijk’s return to form boosts Liverpool’s hopes of competing for the title before facing Manchester City football news

Virgil van Dijk’s return to form boosts Liverpool’s hopes of competing for the title before facing Manchester City  football news

Liverpool head to the Etihad Stadium just one point ahead of Manchester City, and the return of Virgil van Dijk has been key to the team’s improvement; Watch Manchester City vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League with the main event from 11am on Saturday; Departure is at 12:30 pm

by Nick Wright, commentary and analysis @nicolasbright


17:29, United Kingdom, Wednesday 22 November 2023

This time last season, Virgil van Dijk had started 21 of Liverpool’s 22 matches and was about to travel to the World Cup in Qatar, where he would play every minute of the Netherlands’ run to the quarter-finals, culminating in a penalty shootout. Loss to Argentina.

His only break in the second half of Liverpool’s chaotic season came as a result of a hamstring injury in January. At that point, he had started an astonishing 91 matches in less than 18 months for club and country. All this against the backdrop of a major knee injury.

It is not surprising that he has suffered a hamstring injury, or that his form has dropped to a level that he described last week as “mediocre, even poor at times.” Most players return to action easily after an ACL injury like the one he suffered in 2020. Not Van Dijk.

Liverpool’s need was so great. He responded by helping them achieve a historic quadruple in 2021/22. But the workload took its toll. Only now, three years after the injury, is the 32-year-old looking like his old self again.

He added last week: “My injury was very serious.” “It’s not surprising that you recognize your knee again, so to speak. But now I don’t notice it anymore. I haven’t had to change much in my game. I feel like I can do it.” Everything again.”

It seems that way too. At this stage last season, Liverpool was ranked ninth in the table, 15 points behind the top. They now sit in second place, just one point behind leaders Manchester City, with underlying figures suggesting they should actually be top.

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It has a lot to do with their free attack but Van Dijk played a crucial role as well. A player who seemed to lose his aura at times last season is dominating once again – and this is despite ongoing issues over the midfield balance that lie ahead. “Things are going well again since the summer,” he added.

With his help, Liverpool have lost just once in the Premier League this season. They have conceded just 10 goals – the fewest in the league with Arsenal. A 3-0 win over Brentford before the international break resulted in a third clean sheet in four matches.

Van Dijk has been ever-present throughout that run but his overall playing time is being managed in a way it hasn’t been before. He has not yet played a single minute in the Europa League. In fact, he wasn’t even included in the squad for two of the four group matches.

This comfort keeps it fresh for bigger tasks, and a deeper look at the numbers confirms its dominance. The Dutchman may not be quite as quick as he was in his earlier years, but he has rarely been too difficult to beat.

According to Opta, he is winning 80.5 percent of his duels and a higher percentage – 82.3 percent – of his volleys, up from 69.5 percent and 73.7 percent respectively last season.

No player in the Premier League wins such a high percentage of duels. It’s only a 10-game sample of course, but his current success rate is higher than any of his previous campaigns as well.

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This represents a dramatic change from last season in particular, when Van Dijk dribbled 11 times – his highest ever total.

So far this season, he is the only regular starting centre-back in the competition who has yet to be dribbled over once – a feat reminiscent of his thrilling 2018/19 season.

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There have been occasional lapses, namely the recent foul on Alexander Isak that led to his red card in the win over Newcastle in August, and the misplaced pass from which Brighton scored their opening goal in a 2-2 draw at the Amex Stadium in October. .

But the overall picture is that of a player who has regained his sharpness. He can be seen in possession as well as out of possession. Van Dijk completes a higher rate of passes over both short and long distances. His holding losses fell by approximately 20 percent.

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He is meeting expectations once again and that is no small feat considering the standards he sets and the context in which he does so. “Being a centre-back at a top club has never been more difficult,” Jamie Carragher wrote in his article. The Daily Telegraph Column in October.

“It has become the most demanding position on the pitch… You need the pace of the striker and the technical ability of the midfielder along with all the other assets.”

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Van Dijk brought all that and took on more responsibility in the form of leading Liverpool. Recent evidence suggests that inheriting the captaincy from Jordan Henderson was a help rather than a hindrance. He sees it the same way.

He added last week: “There are a lot of things, perhaps more in the club than in the national team.” “But this has no negative impact on my playing style. It is more of an incentive.”



picture:
Virgil van Dijk has been appointed as Liverpool’s new captain in the summer

He has already led the team through difficult moments, including the unprecedented kidnapping of Luis Diaz’s parents, while also providing guidance to Liverpool’s young players, including emerging centre-back Jarel Quansah, who described playing with Van Dijk as “learning 24-7”. “.

The feeling among his teammates is that he has adapted to leading the team smoothly. “Seeing him handle it so well was really impressive,” Joe Gomez said in a recent interview. Sky Sports. He will impose himself, talk to us and shout at us if he needs to.”

It’s just another way he’s helping and obviously he’s in a better place mentally and physically. Van Dijk compared his anterior cruciate ligament injury to “the world collapsing” last season. There were difficult times after that for his club and country.

But all that is behind him now and Liverpool are feeling the benefits.

Saturday’s trip to the Etihad Stadium will be a test of their title credentials. Their issues in the midfield require bail. But they are there, just one point off the pace. This is largely thanks to Van Dijk.

Watch Manchester City vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League with the main event from 11am on Saturday; Departure is at 12:30 pm

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