Manchester City crushed Liverpool 4-0 on Thursday in a game that showed the Reds need much more than Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman played well but couldn’t stop the defeat.
Van Dijk wasn’t at his imperious best against City but he was fine. There were no glaring errors and none of the goals were explicitly his fault. He was fine.
Liverpool, however, were an absolute shambles defensively. City had an alarming amount of space after the first goal went in as the Reds appeared to panic.
Joe Gomez was poor enough that Jurgen Klopp took him off at half-time. Andy Robertson was likely just fortunate that James Milner is coming back from an injury or he’d have suffered the same.
And so what this defensive horror-show really highlighted is that Liverpool’s defence isn’t just about Van Dijk. He can play decently enough and things still fall apart.
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Now, he is certainly the best defender at the club and things turned around after his £75m arrival. But it’s the defence as a whole that impresses at Liverpool.
Liverpool have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season. Not by one or two, either, but by six – the gap was ten before Thursday.
The back four of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk and Robertson is the best around. Statistics and trophies back that up. They conceded the fewest, create the most, and win the most.
And it’s because of the whole unit – not just the Dutch linchpin. The City game proved that beyond doubt because Van Dijk can’t simply cover for the errors of others. It’s not a one-man defence.
It’s something we perhaps don’t appreciate as much as we should. There are still doubts over the defending of everyone other than Van Dijk because many assume it’s easy to defend alongside the Dutchman. But plainly, it’s far from that simple.