DOMINIC KING: Virgil van Dijk’s ACL injury is a HUGE blow to Jurgen Klopp … Liverpool will be so vulnerable without their Dutch safety blanket
- The Merseyside derby ended in frustration for Liverpool and ended in a 2-2 draw
- Jordan Henderson’s late goal was rejected by VAR, despite not appearing to be offside
- A more urgent problem, however, was that Jurgen Klopp was stressed after the game
- Virgil van Dijk was beaten by Jordon Pickford and was forced out, injuring his knee
- He will be out for much of the season and the Reds could lose their balance
Jurgen Klopp was restless and frustrated and was in one of those spells where it’s hard to involve him.
The tipping point came when he was asked about Mohamed Salah who scored his 100th Liverpool goal, with a pretty nice finish. The Inquisitor intended to get some kind of positivity from Klopp, but this was definitely not the time.
“The goal was sensational, great,” said Klopp with an audible sigh and little conviction. ‘But I don’t feel like it. The numbers are crazy, but even Mo doesn’t want to talk about that. ‘
Liverpool is without its best defender for months after Virgil van Dijk’s ACL injury
The central defender was beaten by Jordan Pickford during the Merseyside derby on Saturday
Jurgen Klopp was visibly stressed afterwards and much of that was due to Van Dijk’s condition
You could argue that Klopp’s anger stemmed from the VAR denying Liverpool a winner in the Merseyside derby, but the reality was rather more serious.
While Klopp dealt with these inquisitions, he played through his mind the prospect of being without Virgil van Dijk for the rest of the season.
No one is ever bigger than the team and it would be ludicrous to say that the chances of Liverpool keeping the Premier League this season vanished when Jordan Pickford bumped into Van Dijk in the way you’d expect a guard to keep a shoplifter.
But sometimes there is an injury to a key player that can cause a team to lose balance and no one should be in any doubt about what brings Van Dijk to Liverpool. The supporters sing a song about him saying he’s ‘calm the way you like’ and he’s been their safety blanket for nearly three years.
In recent years, Van Dijk has provided a cool head and security during Liverpool’s golden era
Van Dijk has made football look effortless during that period and with him as a sentry, standing tall and steadfast and repelling problems, the rest of the team was able to progress. No other advocate in Europe has had such a transformative effect.
Consider these numbers: Van Dijk has started 95 Premier League appearances for Liverpool since signing him from Southampton in January 2018. They only conceded 76 goals and kept 44 zero in that period.
There is more. During that period he was involved in 812 matches and won 604; Van Dijk won 464 of the 622 headers he contested and is second to Patrick van Aanholt in terms of the most goals scored by a defender. Yes, Liverpool broke the bank for him, but he paid back the investment.
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You knew right away, as he carefully walked off the field, that something was very wrong. The only time he ever had to be replaced was against Southampton in September 2018, when he broke a rib, but was playing again a week later.
“I don’t know how many games in a row Virgil played for us,” said Klopp. ‘He plays with pain, he plays with everything. But he couldn’t continue playing. That’s not cool. ‘
The only game Van Dijk missed for Liverpool in the Premier League was a shootout with Manchester City in January 2018, with a tight hamstring. The dark reality, however, is that he is now ready for a protracted absence that will likely span the rest of the campaign.
Klopp lacks depth in the central defender and will struggle to find a replacement for the Dutchman
Klopp made a point by saying that Joe Gomez, who replaced Van Dijk on Saturday, had an ‘exceptional’ game when he came in and that his prowess is undeniable. Joel Matip was also reliable when called upon and now they must form a united front.
Both would nevertheless acknowledge how Van Dijk helped them. When you also take into account that Alisson, Liverpool’s excellent goalkeeper, is out until next month, there is a sense that the champions may be vulnerable now.
Points are dropped, referees’ decisions are furious, but injuries cause a different set of emotions in a manager. If they’re as serious as the one Van Dijk contracted, they can change the form of a season. No wonder Klopp was so distracted.