Last week’s signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton was significant for Liverpool in a number of ways, not only was it a record fee for a defender but also it signified Liverpool’s intent to go out and pay what is needed to get the player that they want. However, what I found even more significant about the arrival of van Dijk is that it signifies an evolution within the team as for the first time in a very long time we can actually see the spine of Liverpool developing.
It is well known that every successful team must have a strong spine to it, a group of players from back to front who make up the backbone of the team. Successful Liverpool teams of the past have been no different, whether you’re talking about the Gerrard and Carragher sides or Kenny Dalglish’s team from 1988, every successful Liverpool team down the years has had a robust spine. However, in recent years Liverpool’s spine has been flimsy at best and at worst nonexistent, this has all changed this season as we are now seeing Klopp fitting the jigsaw pieces together. This season we have seen Liverpool make three key signings in van Dijk, Salah and Keita and all three have been bought to improve the spine of the team. Salah being a natural goal scorer has bought a new lease of life to our forward line, ever since Luis Suarez left in 2014 we have been crying out for someone who can score 20 plus goals a season, Salah is already on 21 and we are only just half way through, Klopp has ticked that box.
We have also been desperate for a box to box midfielder, an engine in the middle of the park. Someone who can run with the ball and dribble it as well as carrying it up the pitch, someone who could do what Gerrard use to. Klopp decided that Naby Keita was the ideal man to do this, so we went out and spent big in the summer in order to secure his services. The main area of the pitch where Liverpool desperately needed to strengthen was at the back. It’s been four years since Jamie Carragher retired for the Reds and let’s be honest we haven’t had a leader in defence since then. Van Dijk is someone who can organize a defence as well as providing some much needed leadership which Liverpool have been lacking in recent years, if it was up to me I would give the Dutchman the armband straight away but that’s a debate to be held another time. Now I don’t want to seem like I’m saying Salah, Keita and van Dijk are direct replacement for Suarez, Gerrard and Carragher, these guys are Liverpool legends and I wouldn’t want to burden any new player with the replacement tag. What I am saying is that the Salah, Keita and van Dijk have the ability to fill the holes that were left by Suarez, Gerrard and Carragher and this will be key in making Liverpool successful again.
Even though the spine is forming and we can now see a very clear backbone to this Liverpool team there are still areas of the spine that need filling. For one, a quality keeper is still needed. I think most Liverpool fans will agree that our spine will never be complete while we still have Mignolet in goal, the Belgium keeper quite simply does not have what it takes to be a goalkeeper at the top level. I don’t know if Karius has what it takes either but I would like to see him get a run in the team until the end of the season, just to see if he is good enough or not. If he isn’t, Liverpool seriously need to assign a large portion of our transfer budget in the summer to signing a keeper that is good enough now, personally I would like to see us make a move for Jack Butland or Jan Oblak. I also think we need a holding midfielder or at least someone who can play a deep midfield role even if it’s not a “traditional holding player”, someone like Eric Dier would be brilliant for us even though he would probably cost an arm and a leg. Another option would be to bring back Javier Mascherano, even though the former Reds midfielder is 33 years old now I still feel he could be a valuable asset to the team both on and off the pitch. Mascherano has been there, done it and come back with the t shirt, he has won just about everything that there is to win in club football, having a personality like him in the changing rooms could be priceless for some of our youngsters as well as our first team. Do I think he can still play three games a week? No, probably not, but even if he plays one out of three a week his experience on the pitch could be vital if we are going to mount a title challenge.
Van Dijk’s arrival is a big one, not just for now but also for what we are trying to build and achieve. For the first time in about three or four years I can see a spine of the Liverpool team developing and I am excited, I cannot wait to see what the future holds and how good this Liverpool team will become because I have no doubt that when Klopp finally gets all the pieces of the jigsaw together we are going to be devastating for every team in Europe.
Article by Imraan Adam
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