Kop legend John Aldridge has been eulogising Virgil van Dijk by focusing on the intelligence of the Reds defender, in contrast to his fellow centre-backs Joël Matip and Dejan Lovren.
Writing in his column for the Irish Independent, the former Republic of Ireland striker said, “His decision to keep Sissoko on his left foot and deny him the chance to get the ball to Son was quality defending at its most intelligent – and he was rewarded as Sissoko’s shot flew high over the bar.
“Essentially, Van Dijk weighed up the best and worst-case scenario in a crisis situation and came up with the answer that gave him the best chance of coming out on top against the France international.”
Everyone knows Van Dijk’s mental acuity and his defensive intuition has been a massive reason we’ve only conceded 19 league goals and kept 17 clean sheets – it’s why he’s up for PFA Player of the Year.
But the real rub of Aldo’s column is his critical assessment of our other defenders: “Dejan Lovren would have jumped in on Sissoko and either given him a chance to pass to Son or get past him, and I suspect Joel Matip may have done the same as most defenders now lack the intelligence Van Dijk showed in that situation.
Of course, Lovren and Matip are not in the same league as the Dutchman, defensively, but Matip has shown great resolve to step up from fourth choice and partner Van Dijk to six clean sheets in 13 starts.
I just wish Liverpool fans would stop calling out players. I don’t rate Matip that much but quite frankly he’s been class recently. He’s had plenty of absolute shite games but you’ve got to get behind them. If you want to divide the team and cause rifts and shite then go ahead 🤷🏻♂️
— Mark (@Batchowski) April 1, 2019
Lovren’s injury has pulled Matip back into the starting eleven where, other than a few 50p head moments (conceding the corner that Burnley scored from), and his leggy forays into the opposition half, he has performed admirably all things considered.
It’s no secret that we need defensive reinforcements this summer and it’s crucial we return to the centre-back partnership of Joe Gomez and Van Dijk as soon as possible.
As our defensive talisman, the Dutchman has provided more than a few moments of quick-witted defending; the latest one kept our title hopes alive with mere seconds of reasoning against Spurs.
Having done his homework on Sissoko and Son Heung-Min, Van Dijk knew exactly what he was doing, and he did it alone, which is ironic considering the 27-year-old colussus has a knack for improving whoever plays alongside him.