ESPN pundit Craig Burley has highlighted the fact that Virgl van Dijk rarely breaks a sweat for Liverpool, suggesting that it’s an indicator of his mastery on the pitch.
Van Dijk continued his impressive form this season into Liverpool’s win over Newcastle yesterday, helping his side to another clean sheet.
Liverpool have conceded just seven goals in the league this season, and Burley believes a lot of that newfound defensive stability stems from the Van Dijk’s coolness at the back.
“One of the other things that’s key here, not all the time but most of the time when he comes off the field, he looks as if he’s played 20 minutes,” Burley said.
“And what that tells me is he’s not running about crazily trying to chase his mistakes.
“Which is telling me that at the moment, not only is he mastering the defence but he’s making good decisions. So he’s not getting himself in bad positions to have to force himself to get himself out of it. Maybe now and again it will, but not a lot.
“I think if you look at Liverpool centre-halves down the years, in particular [Mark] Lawrenson and [Alan] Hansen going back years ago, they were guys that thought about the defensive side of the game and rarely made mistakes, and that’s why you see Van Dijk coming off at the end of the game hardly breaking sweat, because he’s playing with his head as much as his feet.
Burley also pointed out the impact made by Liverpool’s new goalkeeper: “Apart from the two mistakes this season, one at Leicester and one against Manchester United recently, Alisson has been an absolute bedrock for Liverpool in goal.
“And I think in front of him, that defence has been marshalled so well by Virgil Van Dijk to a four-point [lead].
“I’m surprised how good he’s been. I’m not surprised he’s been a success, but I’m surprised how much of a success he’s been.
“To make the step up from Southampton, from going to Celtic for a couple of million, then moving to England with all the doubts: ‘you can only do it in Scotland, you can only do this, you can only do that’. And then he’s been good at Southampton and so far been great for Liverpool and for Holland.
“It’s the way he’s marshalled the defence and it’s been his composure as well. I think he’s been brilliant.”