Liverpool are getting into the unknown.
For 80 minutes at Goodison Park on Saturday, there was a uncommon sight: Liverpool taking part in a Premier League match with out Virgil van Dijk on the coronary heart of their defence.
Jordan Pickford’s brutal – however unpunished – problem, which has left Van Dijk needing surgery on his knee, means it’s one thing Liverpool will now must get used to.
However how will they cope with out their star centre-back?
The sensible Dutchman has performed in 95 of the 96 Premier League video games Liverpool have had since he made his debut in January 2018. He performed each minute within the league final season, as they claimed the title for the primary time in 30 years.
So how do they attempt to cowl the absence of a participant who has been central to their triumphs domestically and in Europe over the previous three years?
It’s a big process and, with Premier League and Champions League video games coming thick and quick, it’s a process Jurgen Klopp should get proper if Liverpool are to proceed to achieve success. That’s how pivotal Van Dijk has been.
The distinction Van Dijk has made
Critics who prompt the £75m price Liverpool paid Southampton for Van Dijk was extortionate have lengthy since conceded their case in that argument. Van Dijk has, if something, been a discount for Liverpool, reworking their defence and offering the platform for the Reds to develop into arguably the most effective facet in Europe.
Liverpool had let in 120 targets of their 96 Premier League fixtures earlier than he arrived. They’ve conceded simply 78 within the 96 since.
He has helped Liverpool maintain 43 Premier League clear sheets in that point, probably the most of any participant in that interval.
Handily, he has additionally scored six headed Premier League targets for the reason that begin of final season. Solely Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored extra.
However past the numbers, it’s the status Van Dijk has honed, the respect his towering 6ft 4in body instructions, and the authority he brings to – and conjures up in – Liverpool’s backline which has been the true consider reworking Liverpool.
From March 2018, Van Dijk went 50 video games with out being dribbled previous. It was an outrageous stat – however how a lot did that play on the thoughts of opponents; how a lot do opposition sides adapt their standard attacking patterns as a result of they’re intimidated by the 29-year-old?
In Photos: How Van Dijk’s damage occurred
Curiously, there have been some uncommon slip-ups from Van Dijk this season. In opposition to Leeds, his over-confident clearance allowed Patrick Bamford to attain. He solely made one error resulting in a purpose in all of final season. Then there was the 7-2 drubbing by Aston Villa, the place questions had been raised about Liverpool’s excessive line.
They’ve let in 13 targets in 5 video games this season. It took them 15 matches to concede that many in 2019/20.
However regardless of these errors and frailties, stepping in for Van Dijk goes to be no straightforward process. And Klopp is brief on choices.
Joe Gomez got here off the bench on Saturday, taking part in alongside Joel Matip who had began forward of him. Afterwards, Klopp described his efficiency up towards the in-form Calvert-Lewin as “sensational”.
However Calvert-Lewin had risen above Gomez and Andy Robertson to go in Everton’s equaliser. Earlier, with Van Dijk out of the sport, Michael Keane had outjumped Liverpool’s gamers at a nook to go in Everton’s first.
That, although, might be Klopp’s strongest pairing whereas Van Dijk is out.
There are much less easy options: Fabinho might drop in from midfield to defence, whereas skipper Jordan Henderson has additionally performed within the backline within the Membership World Cup and at Wolves within the FA Cup, and Gini Wijnaldum performed in a three-man defence towards Brighton in January 2019.
Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures
|Weds October 21||Ajax (away)||Champions League|
|Sat October 24||Sheff United (residence)||Premier League|
|Tues October 27||Midtjylland (residence)||Champions League|
|Sat October 31||West Ham (residence)||Premier League|
|Tues November 3||Atalanta (away)||Champions League|
|Sat November 7||Man Metropolis (away)||Premier League|
Past the first-team regulars, following Dejan Lovren’s departure in the summertime, Klopp must draw from Liverpool’s academy sides.
Billy Koumetio is extremely rated and would have made his debut in cup competitions by now if not for badly-timed accidents however there can be big stress on the 17-year-old to step in. Rhys Williams, 19, has featured within the Carabao Cup, Sepp van den Berg, 18, can also be properly considered. Then there’s 23-year-old Nathaniel Phillips, who appeared like he was heading to the Championship on mortgage final week.
It is a concern, given Matip – who has performed simply 165 minutes of Premier League soccer in 2020 – missed substantial recreation time final season and solely returned on Saturday from a muscle downside which had saved him out for the reason that opening weekend win towards Leeds, whereas Gomez has had damage points up to now too.
It’s vital Van Dijk’s damage got here the day after the home switch window closed. It’s a lengthy two-and-a-half months till the January window permits Liverpool to usher in reinforcements.
How Liverpool will cope throughout that interval – and past till the tip of the season – is not possible to foretell.
They’ve been shorn of their defensive chief, the Premier League’s greatest defender, and they’re brief on back-up.
Now we are going to see how properly they’ll adapt. Now, we will even doubtless see simply how vital Van Dijk has been.
Sky Sports activities’ Jamie Carragher:
“The large query you are taking a look at now could be, can Liverpool win the league with out Van Dijk there? I believe it blows the title race large open, I actually do.
“I nonetheless felt initially of this season Liverpool had been the staff to beat. I believe with Van Dijk being out for what seems like the entire season now, I believe it will be all on for Liverpool.
“I believe Liverpool actually have to enter the market in January, and never simply due to Van Dijk’s damage, however Liverpool had been weak in that space anyway. They misplaced (Dejan) Lovren earlier than the beginning of the season now the opposite gamers in these positions are very damage susceptible.”
Why did Liverpool not purchase a centre again final summer time?
Evaluation by Sky Sports activities’ Richard Morgan:
Folks possibly waking up this morning asking why, in mild of Virgil van Dijk’s doubtlessly season-ending knee damage, Liverpool didn’t signal a central defender in the summertime switch window.
The Premier League champions bought skilled Croatia centre-back Dejan Lovren to Zenit St Petersburg in July, leaving them with simply three recognised central defenders, one among who – Joel Matip – has had a questionable damage report throughout his time on the membership.
Nevertheless, whereas sporting director Michael Edwards did reportedly assess numerous doable targets, together with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Brighton’s Ben White and Sevilla’s Diego Carlos, ultimately the membership determined towards coming into the marketplace for numerous causes.
Firstly, neither of the trio would come low cost, with Manchester Metropolis turning their attentions to Ruben Dias after reportedly being instructed Koulibaly would price them £70m, whereas the highly-rated White signed a brand new four-year deal on the Amex in September.
With Liverpool already in possession of the meanest defence within the Premier League from the earlier two seasons, it was thought pointless through the Covid-19 pandemic to spend these sums on a participant who might not really enhance the again line.
In the meantime, questions on Liverpool being brief on numbers on the coronary heart of their again 4, with Lovren having not been changed, had been then answered by Fabinho once more seamlessly deputising for the injured Joe Gomez and Matip in producing a man-of-the-match show within the facet’s 2-0 win at Chelsea within the second league recreation of the marketing campaign.
So in impact, Jurgen Klopp had 4 centre backs at his disposal going into the season and given Van Dijk had solely missed one top-flight match since shifting to Anfield in January 2018, the considering understandably was the membership didn’t must strengthen that space of the staff.
Nevertheless, that call might now come again to hang-out them…