Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was full of praise for Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk last night.
The Spaniard pinpointed the defender’s passing ability as the key to the Reds nullifying Arsenal’s attempts to press from the front.
“We tried to put them under as much pressure as we could but Van Dijk plays 60 yards to Salah and they are out,” Arteta said after the game.
“This is real quality and that is why they have spent the money they have.”
Having a defender that can dismantle an opposing team’s tactics so effortlessly has been one of the key reasons behind Liverpool’s success under Jurgen Klopp.
Against Arsenal, Van Dijk utilised his primary attacking weapon perfectly, feeding the Reds’ forward-thinking maestros with some outstanding long-range passes.
Thanks to @CF_Comps, you watch the Dutchman take the concept of the ‘deep-lying playmaker’ to new extremes below.
Van Dijk is the reason most teams don’t press LFC and commit too many men forward to stop them building. Superb range.— CF Comps (@CF_Comps) September 29, 2020
Virgil van Dijk completed 117 passes vs. Arsenal, *71* more than any Arsenal player.— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 28, 2020
Excellent range from the Liverpool skipper on the night. 👌 pic.twitter.com/6nclEap8p5
Any great central midfielder, past or present, would be proud of that collection of passes!
Van Dijk is the definition of a Rolls-Royce defender, a player that will go down as one of the greatest to have played the game.
Liverpool’s decision to hand £75m to Southampton in order to secure Van Dijk’s services was viewed with scepticism at the time, but that fee now looks like a bargain – from a footballing perspective anyway.
During the Reds’ title-winning campaign in 2019/20, the 29-year-old’s composed ability with the ball at his feet was evident for all to see.
Per WhoScored, Van Dijk averaged 85.8 passes per game, the most of any player in the Premier League.
The Dutchman is not only the immovable object that terrifies every attacker on the planet, he’s the man that sets the tone and glues Klopp’s all-conquering team together.
His uncanny ability to split teams apart with a pass is also the main reason why Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are afforded the freedom of their respective flanks.
Without Van Dijk, Klopp’s system at Liverpool would fall apart and a serious injury to the Dutchman would seriously derail the club’s 2020/21 season.