Digital Editor Alex McDonald gives his take on what could be the signing of the January window, with Liverpool securing Virgil van Dijk for a world-record fee of £75million
It has been a tumultuous road, but Liverpool FC have finally secured the services of Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk for a whopping £75 million. Fans of the club have been clamouring for manager Jurgen Klopp to sign a centre half given the defensive woes that the Reds have suffered in recent years.Most recently Liverpool dropped two points against Merseyside rivals Everton after conceding a clumsy penalty and against Arsenal after five minutes of madness which saw the Gunners score three to take the lead.
Unsurprisingly then, despite the hefty price-tag, which doubles the club’s transfer record (Mohamed Salah joined the side in the summer for around £37 million), the mood among Liverpool fans has been generally positive. As a fan myself, I see VVD’s arrival at Anfield as a good move for the club; shoring up the defence with Premier League calibre players is always going to be a good thing.
But then again, the same sentiments were shared when Dejan Lovren, another former Southampton defender, joined the club in the summer of 2014. His story was not too dissimilar to van Dijk’s: Liverpool began courting the Croatian after an impressive debut season with the Saints. With the club initially reluctant to sell, Lovren took matters into his own hands and tried to force a move with a transfer request. In the end, his protest worked and he arrived at Liverpool, and the fans welcomed him with open arms.
Until the mistakes crept in. Now Lovren is on the receiving end of more than a few Twitter rants from the Anfield faithful. He certainly isn’t the only one subjected to fan criticism; left back Alberto Moreno and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet are also no strangers to a post-match tongue lashing. While the Moreno may be an exception, on their day, Lovren and Mignolet can put in great performances but the errors that creep into their game and test the fans’ patience.
But Virgil van Dijk has been heralded as the saviour of Liverpool’s back four. But what is to say that VVD won’t go the way of Lovren? Mistakes could always rear their ugly head. One thing that van Dijk has in his favour is that he is very confident on the ball, a feature that undoubted drew Klopp’s attention. He is particularly strong at playing out from the back which, while is is a valuable trait for Liverpool’s style of play under Klopp, could be incredibly costly if a pass is misplaced.
Teams that like to attack from the first minute to the ninetieth will always be vulnerable at the back. While I’m not arguing that a centre back partnership between is Lovren and Ragnar Klavan will win you a title, Klopp’s attacking mentality certainly doesn’t help. With both full backs and midfielders encouraged to push forward and join the attacks, centre halves can be isolated as a result. The free flow passing of Liverpool’s aptly named “fab four” upfront aims to draw defenders out and prey on those left isolated. By constantly pushing up, they’re doing the same thing to themselves.
In my opinion, what Liverpool really needs at this point is an enforcer in the midfield, someone who will hang back and help out the defence at all times. At this point, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum are not that player. They are good all-round midfielders but they are ultimately masters of none. A deal for RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita may be exactly what Liverpool need to truly challenge for the title, but it is coming one season too late.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Jurgen Klopp and I have complete faith in him as the right man to take Liverpool forward in the future. But a greater emphasis on leaving players back to help defend against counter attacks would likely reduce the number of goals conceded and provide more protection against costly mistakes. VVD will be a good addition to the side, but I would hate to see his phenomenal potential marred by errors because of a lack of defensive support.
Oh, and £75 million is a ridiculous amount of money.