"He'll pass the ball, calm as you like, he's Virgil van Dijk, he's Virgil van Dijk…" Oh, how Liverpool fans missed singing that song. He is such an important part of the team and not just in defence but going forward as well. A leader on and off the pitch.
The Dutch centre half was a huge loss to the team last season. In hindsight, it's a miracle Liverpool actually made it to the top four without him.
He was injured for 9 months after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in a league match against Everton. It was a long and difficult rehabilitation process but Klopp will be so grateful to have one of his main men back in action. Someone who has been vital to the team's success in recent years.
Liverpool tend to play their centre back pretty high up the pitch and dominate space in the middle of the field. When van Dijk is there, they don't have to worry about a potential counterattack – he is that quick and closes down space in an instant.
This was evident in the last league victory against Leeds. Liverpool made a potentially very tricky away fixture look routine. (The only downside being the horrific injury to young midfielder Harvey Elliott.)
As goalkeeper Alisson Becker pointed out, "he's the type of player that just brings everyone confidence. It's really good to have them (van Dijk and Joel Matip) back in the team, not just me but for everybody... To win titles you need a team that plays and defends in a consistent way. Counting on them is really important," he said recently.
Felt good to lead the boys out there again but we have loads of things to work on. We need 2 big results now for the remaining games. First up in Eindhoven on Saturday, see you all there!🦁🧡 pic.twitter.com/M3mD7R9dYV— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) September 1, 2021
He gives the team such confidence, not only at the back but going forward as well. One of Liverpool's most potent weapons is their full backs. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold love bombing forward and creating chances. They were unable to do this last season with any kind of freedom, due to all the uncertainty at centre back.
Van Dijk also has the amazing ability to spray passes and dictate the direction of play from the back. There is also the added threat at set pieces when he is in the team with his height and strength advantage over most players.
Klopp was not only without van Dijk, but without Matip as well as Joe Gomez for the majority of last season. Any team would struggle without their three senior centre backs and so it proved to be the case for Liverpool. The manager resorted at times to playing midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in the position at times as well as youngster Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams. Liverpool largely have these players to thank for even making it to the Champions League this season.
In the first four games this season, Liverpool have won three times and drawn once, only conceding one goal in the process.
A big part of this turnaround in form is the return of van Dijk and Matip. They give the team so much assurance. They play high up the field and dominate the ball most of the time. If they do lose the ball in midfield they can usually rely on van Dijk's pace and strength to get them out of trouble.
It was a frustrating transfer window for Liverpool fans. Watching their rivals spend like it was nothing hurt a bit. Klopp, though, has had the luxury of playing the same centre back pairing four games in a row, something that was unheard of in the last campaign.
zlatan ducking the Van Dijk test , I don’t blame you pal pic.twitter.com/9CKyqgZr85— dobz 🇮🇪 (@dobzinho) September 14, 2021
Last season Liverpool used a staggering 16 different centre back pairings in the league campaign. This would have unsettled any team. But if they can manage to keep the likes of van Dijk and Matip fit, they'll be in the title picture come the end of the season.
As the song goes: "He's our centre half, he's our number 4, watch him defend, and we watch him score, he'll pass the ball, calm as you like, he's Virgil van Dijk..."