Virgil van Dijk’s arrival at Liverpool from Southampton in January was met with plenty of joy from the supporters as they felt that he was the answer to the club’s defensive woes. Now, it seems that the 26-year-old’s presence has boosted those around him, specifically Dejan Lovren.
So far, Van Dijk has been a pillar of strength, and has particularly improved the team’s ability to defend set pieces.
On Wednesday night, though, a slither of doubt emerged when the Dutchman’s mistake led to a second-minute goal from Manchester City in the deciding leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie at the Etihad Stadium.
The former Saints player was muscled off the ball by Raheem Sterling, and what ensued was a swift move from Pep Guardiola’s side that ended up with Gabriel Jesus nestling the ball into the back of the net.
Van Dijk recovered, though, with the help of his centre-back partner Dejan Lovren, who has been under intense scrutiny ever since he failed to make an instant impact following his switch from Southampton in 2014.
Against City, the 37-cap Croatian international was composed and commanding as he managed to prevent City’s attacking stars from building on their early lead.
Over the course of the match, Lovren made the joint-most tackles within the Liverpool team, alongside 19-year-old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The centre-back was also one of the first to get the ball away from the danger area having made the second-most clearances, with Van Dijk making just one more.
Joel Matip was initially thought of as the defender to join Van Dijk at the back, but Lovren has begun to show on a more regular basis that he is worthy of the position.
The 28-year-old has shown in the past that he is prone to making a blunder, but Van Dijk’s calming presence has seemingly had an effect.
In Lovren’s last three games, in which he has played a full 90 minutes, Liverpool have conceded just one goal.