The loss of Virgil van Dijk has had broad psychological ramifications for Liverpool, as psychologist Dan Abrahams explained to The Athletic.
The Dutch international was ruled out for the long-term following an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in the Merseyside derby last year.
“It makes a difference to the emotional temperature in a dressing room and can result in anxiety,” the sports psychologist said. “There are people who are game-changers with their mere presence. Their presence alone can lead to a release of testosterone in (other) players’ bodies and the adrenaline to perform.”
The extent to which our No.4’s teammates miss him on the pitch is well-documented, with the side in desperate need of his contributions in build-up play and attacks, not to mention our defensive structure.
It’s not simply just the case that we’re weaker in defence; having a player of Van Dijk’s calibre is near unquantifiable in terms of the advantage he offers in numbers and sheer spirit – the loss of which, is equally unquantifiable in terms of its devastation.
“It’s that feeling of looking across, seeing someone like Van Dijk and knowing he’s going to help you. If you’re a defender who has played next to another defender hundreds of times before, you have that understanding about what they’re going to do, where they’re going to be,” Abrahams added. “That’s going to make a difference to your perception action. Without someone like that, confidence and understanding reduces and executing game plans becomes harder.”
As far as the simple eye-test goes, it’s clear for all to see that Liverpool are simply not the same side without the 29-year-old around.
Many were keen to highlight how Manchester City were impacted by the loss of Aymeric Laporte last term, however, few could come to terms with injuries to both their starting centre-halves, not to mention key new signings being sidelined in addition.
It’s a freak season for injuries, by any account, and while our performances have suffered as a result, it’s reassuring to bear in mind that our struggles will only be temporary, on this basis.