James Pearce and Simon Hughes have highlighted how the continued absence of Virgil van Dijk is being felt by the club off the pitch as well as on it.
The No.4 has been sidelined with injury since mid-October, following a reckless challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
“His absence has forced others to play out of position. Without him, the same synergy has not been present in Liverpool’s play,” the Liverpool journalists wrote for The Athletic. “His absence off the pitch has been felt as well. He has not just been missed in games but around the training ground and inside the dressing room.”
“In the testing moments since, other players have looked towards him for inspiration,” Pearce and Hughes added. “On such occasions, he would be critical of himself as well as others – a unifying figure.”
Though the absence of the Dutch international on the pitch is most clearly observable – not to mention the ramifications for players like Fabinho, who has since been converted into a makeshift centre-half – we often forget about Van Dijk’s contributions off the pitch.
Much like the impact of the Anfield faithful, it’s hard to exactly quantify how much strong presences like the former Southampton man make a difference in the changing room and how that translates into performances, and, thus, results.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that such things have some kind of an effect on the team’s success, no matter how minor.
“Teammates say Van Dijk is also a good listener, someone who makes those around him feel valued,” the journalists wrote. “Without Van Dijk – especially at a time when nothing feels quite as it should be – a sense of balance has been lost.”
It does raise questions about the kind of impact the loss of Gini Wijnaldum will have, should the 30-year-old depart the club, as expected, in the summer.
For now, Liverpool have to contend themselves with the experienced heads currently available in the dressing room, as we look to rediscover our title-winning form of the prior term.