Virgil van Dijk: £75 million Bargain?

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ANFIELD'S NEW COLOSSUS

There's no doubting that Liverpool are one of the best sides in the Premier League when it comes to attacking and scoring goals. The Reds have one of the most potent forward lines in world football but whats often been their achilles heel is their inability to keep them out at the other end. Set pieces and lapses in concentration have haunted their game over the last few years and have proven extremely costly - with their second placed PL finish back in 2014 immediately coming to mind when they conceded a huge 50 goals. But it looks like times are changing.

Jurgen Klopp's prolific side now look resolute at the back and the bulk of it coincides with the arrival of one man, Virgil van Dijk. The 27 year-old has been one of the German's no.1 targets for some time now and after going through a messy transfer saga, he finally made his long awaited move to Merseyside back in January. Eyebrows were raised when the Reds shelled out a world record fee for a defender (£75m) to secure his services and he had a lot of work to do to repay his fee - but now 7 months later he is looking like an absolute bargain.

Not since the days of Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher have Liverpool had a centre-half they can fully trust and rely on, but it looks like they now have that man in van Dijk. The Dutchman possesses all the technical and physical attributes required to be a success in the Premier League and the impact that he's made just 7 months into his 5 year contract is quite incredible. This is a massive season for the football club as a whole and this man is likely to have a huge say in what unfolds - will Klopp win his first trophy this year? Can Liverpool finally win the league? Is van Dijk the best centre back in the league? We've had our say below..

van Dijk Klopp

£75M WELL SPENT

Virgil van Dijk's move from Southampton to Liverpool was one of the worst kept secrets but what really stunned everyone was the amount of money that they had to spend to get their man. The £75m transfer fee was and still is a world record for a defender but the Dutchman is now looking like he could prove to be a bargain. When he initially joined, the Reds were defensively unstable, with set pieces a particular problem and a huge weakness identified by the opposition. Many didn't expect one player to be able to change their fortunes so much but the stats since his arrival make seriously impressive reading.

In the 24 Premier League games before van Dijk arrived on Merseyside Liverpool had conceded 28 goals, which averages out at around 1.17 goals per game putting them some distance behind their rivals at the top of the table. Van Dijk has changed that though - with this Reds backline now looking transformed. In the 16 PL games he's represented them they've conceded just 10 times, which in turn has dropped the average down to just 0.63.

Virgil van Dijk

His presence and ability to marshal Liverpool's backline makes him one of the first names on the team sheet but the stats just back everything. The Premier League is obviously the backbone to their season but he also proved that can do it on the biggest stage of all last term, playing an important role in guiding Liverpool to their first Champions League final in 11 years. It ultimately ended in tears in Kiev, but the experience gained will only inspire him to strive for more and guide Liverpool to some long overdue silverware - with their last success coming back in the 2012 League Cup Final.

COULD HE INSPIRE LIVERPOOL TO THEIR FIRST PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE?

Liverpool will always score goals with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita in the side, it's just a case of sharpening up at the back if they're to really push Manchester City for the Premier League title. Jurgen Klopp has identified this in the transfer market, making a couple of impressive captures in Fabinho and Alisson Becker to really add some strength in depth to key areas. The pair are welcome additions to the side and Alisson in particular looks like he could world class, with the Reds looking like they've finally rectified their goalkeeping problem.

Van Dijk will provide the defensive cover in front of him and the stats suggest that the Reds will compete with Pep Guardiola's right till the very end. Since their 4-1 hammering at the hands of Spurs back in October something has changed at Anfield. Klopp clearly saw enough and his remarks about being able to 'write a book on defending' look like they could well be true. In the 30 games since that difficult day at Wembley the Reds have conceded just 22 goals and kept 15 clean sheets - the best in the league during that period. It's an incredible turnaround and a lot of it is owed to the signing of van Dijk.

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool

He's come in and given confidence and belief to players such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and even Dejan Lovren, who've all delivered some incredible performances over the last few months. Jordan Henderson may wear the captains armband but van Dijk really is the utter definition of a leader. Liverpool fans will love the way he constantly marshals the back four and demands more from his teammates, he's raised the bar at Anfield and it's going to be interesting to see just how much he can improve along with his teammates.

The backline is looking much more settled these days and they form an effective base for their superb attacking players to go do their thing, which will make them a terrifying prospect for teams up and down the country. The stats make exciting reading for the fans: (Courtesy of @SkySportsStatto)

JUST HOW GOOD IS HE?

He's always been touted as potentially one of the best centre-halves in the Premier League and the fact that he's managed to get Dejan Lovren playing well shows just how good he is! His transfer grabbed plenty of headlines but since joining he's done his talking on the pitch, with Liverpool keeping the most clean sheets in the Premier League since his arrival. They also haven't conceded a goal at home since February and they're the only side not to have conceded a goal yet this season (although we are only two games in!) He's now in that category alongside the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Toby Alderweireld as one of the best CB's in the league and you can certainly make a case for him being no.1.

Those three have performed consistently at the highest level for years now but the impact that van Dijk has made simply cannot be ignored. Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has compared him to Vincent Kompany, who when was in his prime was without the best defender in the top flight. "I can’t think anybody in my head who is better. It feels to me he’s the man to step into Kompany’s position - over the last five years Kompany has been that leader and colossus. They are very similar as players really, there’s nothing they really lack".

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool

Carragher was speaking after the Dutchman's man of the match performance against Crystal Palace on Monday night, where he really dragged his side across the line to pick up what could prove to be a big three points. Selhurst Park really isn't an easy place to go but he stood up to the challenge, winning 9 aerial duels, 2 tackles and completing 92% of his passes. It really was a top display and it even drew plaudits from Manchester United favourite Gary Neville - which proves just how well he's playing.

All in all it's been a seriously impressive start to life at Anfield for Virgil van Dijk and if he continues to make the impact that he is there's really no limit to what he can achieve. Comparisons to the likes of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane have already began and his displays really warrant that. It's an incredibly exciting time for Liverpool as a football club and their summer spending means that they have to challenge and compete for major honours, should van Dijk continue to deliver this level of consistency along with the front three - anything is possible this year.

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