As Liverpool beat West Ham comfortably on the opening day of the premier league, one moment encapsulated what Virgil Van Dijk has brought to Liverpool. Having been at the right place and at the right time to stop Filipe Anderson from creating problems for the Liverpool defence, the Netherlands international dished out a real rollicking. Mane was tracking back from the wings and he failed to shut down space quickly enough, the TV cameras managed to pick up the big center-back screaming in the wingers’ direction, “Stop the ****ing cross!” Liverpool may have been in complete control of the game since the beginning but big Virg was not willing to let the standards slip at Anfield.
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) August 12, 2018
Van Dijk oozes authority and it was just what the Reds lacked last season before his arrival. And he has started this season exactly how he finished the last. He won all his aerial duels and completed 61 of his 62 passes. The 27-year-old is as important as anyone else in this Liverpool team and will be vital if they are to mount a title challenge this year. The improvement of Liverpool defensively has been truly remarkable since his arrival. Virgil is a born leader and is extremely vocal at the back, something that the club craved for since Jamie Carragher hung up his boots. His calmness and composure rub on to players around him – epitomized by the transformation of Dejan Lovren.
Van Dijk has played 15 matches for the Reds since his arrival and has helped the team maintain 8 clean sheets. They haven’t conceded a goal at Anfield since February last year which is more than 10 hours of game time. Something that is remarkable for a club that was extremely poor at the start of last season. The impact he had and that Keita has had underlines the importance of having set transfer targets and doing anything it takes to have them sign for you. This means that the defensive frailties that Klopp’s men had have been addressed with the addition of a world-class goalkeeper in the form of Alisson. Are they ready to be World beaters? Not yet. But the future seems bright for the Merseyside club that has filled the hearts of their supporters with hope and optimism.
"I thought Van Dijk was a good player at Southampton, but I didn't think he was worth £75m. I didn't think he would have the impact on Liverpool's defence that he's had. He's a monster, and is looking like Jaap Stam. He just throws people out of the way."
– Gary Neville: pic.twitter.com/8QAP9L8v74
— The Redmen TV (@TheRedmenTV) August 14, 2018