Liverpool may not be quite as deadly going forward this season as they were in the last campaign, where the front-three were scoring for fun, but Jurgen Klopp has certainly worked on making his side watertight at the back.
However, the German boss cannot take all the credit for the transformation, as Virgil van Dijk proved in Liverpool’s draw with Arsenal that his form is central to any hope the Reds have of mounting a challenge against Manchester City for the title.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and particularly Roberto Firmino have been out of sorts at the start of this campaign compared to last year, and amazingly against the Gunners, van Dijk’s two shots on target from three in total was more than any other Liverpool player managed.
Liverpool paid a world record fee for a defender as the Dutchman joined from Southampton in a £75m deal on the first of January this year, but he has already banished any thoughts of the cost from any fan’s mind by turning a leaky back four that gifted chances to the opposition into one of the tightest defences in the division.
At the Emirates Stadium on Saturday evening, the 27-year-old made a huge seven clearances and blocked two shots as Arsenal put in an impressive display, but he also displayed his huge range of passing and still managed to achieve 94 per cent accuracy from 36 total attempts.
Van Dijk’s distribution allows the Liverpool midfield to push up and should also make Klopp’s side a more dangerous attacking force. His 6ft 4in frame also makes him a huge threat from set-pieces, as the Gunners found when he hit the post with a header in the first-half on Saturday.
With the front-three misfiring now and again though, it is the Dutch national captain who will be the most important player for the Merseyside club this season as they look to close the gap to Guardiola’s City side.
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