Virgil Van Dijk – Not The Second Coming…Yet

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After six months of back and forth between the clubs, newspaper back pages and BBC Gossip sites; Virgil Van Dijk has made the highly coveted move to Liverpool from fellow Premier League side Southampton. The move was amazing news to every Liverpool fan, a team with defensive issues that pre-date the current manager have spent big on a player who had caught the eye of all the big clubs in English football. Videos surfaced of Van Dijk’s goals, defensive actions, passing (and a few of his errors from United fans) to show what type of player it was that Liverpool had broken the world record fee for a defender for and Liverpool social media blew up with excitement over this brand new player.

I’m not intentionally trying to put a downer on the signing of Van Dijk, more just offering a more realistic view of what he can bring to the club. I’ve seen Liverpool fans act like we won’t concede another goal all season and even talk about him taking the armband of Henderson despite the fact that he hasn’t kicked a ball in a Liverpool shirt yet! The Dutchman’s talent is clear, watching him from his time at Celtic and Southampton it was apparent that he was a class above his team mates but even the best players can take time to get back to their best after not properly playing football for the best part of a year.

For the first part of last season, Van Dijk was far and away the best defender in the Premier League; then he picked up an injury that would keep him out for the rest of the season. Fast forward to last summer and I don’t need to remind you what happened; Van Dijk made it known that he wanted to leave Southampton and even went on strike in a bid to force through his move to a Champions League club. Because of his actions the club captain was forced to train with the U23 squad upon his return from injury and for a long time he was shut out at the southern club despite their adamance that he was going nowhere.

September comes along and Van Dijk is still a Southampton player, manager Pellegrino says he wants to get the defender back in the team and after an attempt at rebuilding bridges Van Dijk is back in the Southampton team and starting. Compared to his form the same time last season Van Dijk looked half the player that had attracted interest from Liverpool, optimists would say that is due to him alienating himself from his teammates but there’s a chance it could also be down to a lack of match fitness and an inability to bounce back from a long spell on the sidelines.

Now the defender has finally got his move, this will prove a big motivator for him in a bid to recover his old form and take his game to the next level at a club of a higher stature. Former Saints player Matt Le Tissier put it best on twitter, saying “his best he’s better than LFC, he’s not been at his best for a year. If he gets back to it after a transfer he’ll probably be at Barcelona or Real Madrid within a year.” Now whilst there is a sprinkle of bitterness mixed in there he is right in what he’s saying. If he can get back to his best then he is at the level that the best clubs in the world have – this is the level that Liverpool want to get back to – the signings of Salah, Van Dijk and Keita in the summer show the intent of this. Being realistic, Van Dijk won’t be at Real Madrid or Barcelona in a year; but with a good turn in form and better players around him Van Dijk could be at a club in Liverpool that can go toe to toe with the best.

Upon the announcement of the defenders arrival, James Pearce reminded everyone that Van Dijk will be available for both the Champions League and the FA Cup sparking talk that he could start against Everton when we face them in the latter mentioned competition. Knowing how Klopp goes about with his players, I would be surprised if he decided to throw Van Dijk into the back four straight away. In the summer he wanted his business done early so that he could get a full pre-season with his new squad, Salah is showing the perks of bringing a player in early and teaching them your tactics in preparation for the start of the season. We play the first leg of the Champions League tie against Porto on 14th February and whilst it will annoy those impatient fans, I think we might not see Van Dijk consistently in the side until around that date. I still don’t think the player is fully fit so he will need to catch up to speed and Liverpool play a very different game to Southampton so the manager will need time to teach his ethos to the new player so that he knows his role within the team.

There’s a lot of anticipation around the Van Dijk transfer and every move he makes will be scrutinised due to the transfer fee, but I personally will be holding back my opinion of the player until next season when he’s had time at the squad, he’s back to full fitness and he’s had a pre-season with Klopp under his belt. It would be great if the big Dutchman could hit the ground running (obviously) but it’s important that the manager and the fans especially give him time to show everyone why we spent the money on him, and why he can spearhead a new look Liverpool team as they go on the hunt for success in the future.

Article by Louis Connor

Twitter: @Loui_Connor

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