Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League
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Sherwood says Liverpool have the 'best athlete' in Premier League, he's the main reason for 'staggering' statistic

Tim Sherwood believes Virgil van Dijk is the primary reason for a ‘staggering’ statistic at Liverpool this season. The Dutchman is in world-class form once again.

Liverpool beat Newcastle United 1-0 at St James’ Park on Saturday in a dominant defensive display. They needed that, too – the Reds’ forwards had an off day as they blew some fantastic chance away from home.

Fortunately, Liverpool’s backline was capable of holding Newcastle at bay. They essentially gave them zero decent chances, with the high-line stifling anything Eddie Howe’s side tried to get going. And that, really, is to be expected.

The Reds have played with a very high line all season long and to wonderful effect. Premier League Productions pointed this out before the game, with Tim Sherwood and Michael Owen looking into the stats.

They showed how Liverpool had caught opponents offside 131 times this season – by far the most in the Premier League. Next was Manchester City with 82 and then Wolves with 76. The Reds are in a league of their own and Owen was quick to label the statistic ‘staggering’.

So how do they do it? Well, Sherwood believes Virgil van Dijk is the principle reason for Liverpool’s success at the back.

Virgil van Dijk is key for Liverpool

“That stat’s because of Jurgen [Klopp] working with them in training but also having leaders on the pitch,” he explained. “That man is Virgil van Dijk.

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“It’s his personality, the way he galvanises others – he makes players better around him.”

Sherwood went into a bit more detail at half-time of the fixture, labelling Van Dijk as ‘the best athlete’ in the Premier League.

“He’s not only the best athlete and one of the best defenders we’ve ever seen [but] he also marshalls it,” said Sherwood. “He’s the captain out there, he’s the one who leads.

Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

“I mean, not captain by wearing the armband but he just leads the group. That backline just does whatever he says.”

Van Dijk is pretty unquestionably the main reason for Liverpool’s success at the back. You need only go back and watch a few games from the month before his arrival to see what a struggle things were for the Reds.

But they’ve genuinely been solid ever since Van Dijk arrived at the club. He’s the world’s best defender and playing like it once again after last year’s setback.

We will say, however, that another man deserves a lot of praise for the Reds’ success with a high line – Alisson. The Brazilian is a world-class sweeper and the entire system would break down without him.

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