Michael Mongie assesses what signing Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk would do for shoring up the holes in Liverpool’s leaky defence.
Liverpool have conceded 42 goals this season in 35 games which is comparable to the 45 that Middlesbrough have let in. The difference is that Boro are on the brink of relegation whereas the Reds are about to secure Champions League qualification for next season.
A lot has been said about Liverpool’s defence but not much has been done. While Jöel Matip was signed last summer to plug gaps centrally, James Milner has played left back for the entire season and there is conclusive evidence to suggest that Dejan Lovren is just not good enough to be a starting centre-back for Liverpool Football Club.
Ragnar Klavan and Alex Manninger were brought in last summer as well to provide depth. While the former has played and not impressed, the latter hasn’t had a chance to feature for Liverpool in any competitive fixtures this season.
With Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Watford on Monday evening, Champions League football looks a little more likely with Arsenal and Manchester United set to clash on Sunday.
Liverpool need to bolster their defence this season and the man who seems absolutely perfect in every department is Virgil Van Dijk. The Dutchman will cost £50 million but reports indicate that the Reds are willing to pay what it takes to get their man.
A lot is said about signing players that are Premier League proven and while it’s not always necessary (see Matip as to why), I think bringing in a top quality defender with knowledge of the inner workings of the league could be very beneficial for Liverpool.
Van Dijk is a very dominant centre-half and as all supporters know from being dominated by the likes of Fernando Llorente and Peter Crouch, the Reds need a centre back that can take control and ensure that the more physical forwards in the league don’t run riot against Liverpool as they typically do.
Not only is Van Dik aggressive and assertive, he’s a natural born leader. Under Jürgen Klopp, there has been a dire lack of leadership in important situations with the Europa League final being a prime example.
Signing Van Dijk not only guarantees that fewer goals will be conceded, but there will be an increase in the composure in the team with the knowledge that the back four is largely reliable – James Milner is not a long term solution.
As Matip has demonstrated when he has been fit, he is a highly capable defender and not afraid of a fight. His handling of Diego Costa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – both forwards with a taste for the controversial – was exemplary and showed why Klopp had the faith to bring him to Liverpool.
Similarly, Van Dijk doesn’t back down from a challenge and lets his emotions out on the pitch.
Something of a concern for Liverpool might be the fact that Van Dijk has been injured for four months since sustaining an ankle injury in January during a Premier League game against Leicester City.
Given the poor injury records of both Matip and Dejan Lovren, it might be unwise to sign a player that has struggled with injury so much.
Recent reports indicate Chelsea are in the lead to sing Van Dijk with the Blues set to offer £50 million plus Andreas Christiansen.
Klopp will still be hopeful of convincing Van Dijk to join Liverpool. It would be a great move by the club – even if it costs £50 million!
With players like Van Dijk and Naby Keita linked this summer, Liverpool’s team next season might have the talent required to go a step further and challenge for the title.