Gary Neville believes you can pinpoint the exact minute Liverpool lost their Premier League title. The moment had too much of an impact.
“Liverpool did lose the title the minute Van Dijk got injured,” Neville told Sky Sports. “It was too big of a blow for them to be able to come back from.
“I remember on the Monday night after that Liverpool-Everton game, I thought Jamie Carragher did a very good piece of analysis and he looked at seasons where big players had been lost in teams.
“He looked at scenarios where one player came out of a team and just had that impact that meant the rest couldn’t cope with it and I think Van Dijk is that good.”
It’s a fairly easy take from Neville, this, and we think he’s nearly right. But we think you need to look at it as ‘would Liverpool win the title if Van Dijk is fit all season?’. Yes, we think they do.
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But we don’t think Liverpool lose the title the moment that injury happens. Instead, it was a moment the following month that truly ended things.
Neville on Liverpool title hopes
Liverpool coped okay post-Van Dijk’s injury. In fact, they were top at Christmas having just smashed Crystal Palace 7-0. At that stage, it seemed they would retain their title.
What got Liverpool in the end, though, was injuries piling up. That was the real problem – not solely Van Dijk’s.
So with that in mind, it was Joe Gomez’s season-ending problem in November that really ended things. Liverpool just couldn’t come back from that one.
Once Gomez was down, Matip was the sole senior centre-back but he was never staying fit for the entire season. He’s had too many problems over the last two years and Liverpool knew that. They were relying on one of Van Dijk or Gomez always being fit.
The moment both were gone created the big problem. By the end of December, Fabinho and Matip were both out, too. Jordan Henderson was now playing in defence – and he’s not ideal there.
Suddenly, midfield was suffering, too, given neither Fabinho or Henderson were there. Liverpool were weak all over the place.
But if Gomez had been there, that terrible period post-Christmas doesn’t happen. Liverpool’s defence remains solid enough that Henderson is in midfield. The Reds wouldn’t have dropped anywhere near as many points and could have remained in the title race.
Having Gomez all season would have brought consistency and strength throughout the team. Van Dijk being fit brings the same, of course, but having neither was the real problem.
So with that in mind, it was the Englishman’s injury that truly ended any and all hopes.