Well, it had to end at one point in time. Virgil Van Dijk was finally ousted in defence on Sunday, when Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe successfully dribbled past him to break a 50-match streak. The Dutch defender had not allowed a single player to go past him in an official game for Liverpool since March 2018.
Van Dijk had a relatively quiet game on Saturday evening, not taking kindly to Arsenal’s new system which saw Pepe being handed his full debut at Anfield. The Ivory Coast defender’s pace caused him noticeable problems early on and it was in the first half when during a counter-attack, Pepe skipped past the Dutch defender to outwit him in a one-v-one duel.
What was quite the legendary streak which the likes of Lionel Messi, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, and Eden Hazard were unable to beat, Van Dijk’s world-class defensive skills shone through with that impressive stat. Of course, he continued maintaining an admirable defensive set-up by averaging 5.2 clearances & 1.1 interceptions per game, but Van Dijk’s you-shall-not-pass mentality was truly embodied by the fact that nobody could dribble past him.
While the Dutch defender did retain a composed demeanor despite being harried on by the Gunners early on, Liverpool’s defensive questions are yet to be answered. The visitors caused them a lot of problems on Saturday with their electric counter-attack as well as the bright link-up play between Pepe and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. Adrian saved danger on multiple occasions, but the Reds ended up conceding late on, much to the frustration of Van Dijk and co.
They’ve already conceded three goals so far this season. With Allison still a good month away from recovery, the defensive hiccups could mount up to create a big problem in the next few matches and affect their expected title challenge – although Liverpool are still the best bet to dethrone Man City and you can use this Winner coupon code to back them for the league this season. Jurgen Klopp needs to look into tightening the grip on his defensive shape, not allowing the opposite to leak in the ball into promising areas around the final third.
Now that one impressive streak has been broken, Van Dijk will look upon building another formidable defensive stat for the ages. Now into his third season for the Reds, he needs to act as their leader in the back-line and help retaining last season’s impenetrable shape with Joel Matip by his side.
The Reds travel next to face Burnley, who’ve themselves recorded a pretty good start in the Premier League season. With Ashley Barnes and co guaranteed to pose big problems with their physicality as well as ruthlessness in the box, Van Dijk needs to find back his thick skin to earn Liverpool their first clean-sheet this season.