Pundit believes van Dijk is now the ‘problem’ at Liverpool as Klopp is urged to instead build his defence around 23-year-old star

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Richard Dunne believes Virgil van Dijk is the ‘actual problem’ in Liverpool’s defence this season and has urged Jurgen Klopp to build his backline around Ibou Konate instead of the Dutchman.

The former Southampton central defender returned to the starting XI for the Reds’ 2-0 defeat of Newcastle last week following a hamstring injury and retained his spot in the side for the dismal 5-2 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

A lot has been made of Liverpool’s defensive performance this season with Jurgen Klopp’s backline looking far from comfortable for the majority of the campaign and Dunne has suggested that our No. 4 hasn’t been the same player since sustaining a serious knee injury back in 2020.

“Everyone’s been looking at the defensive side of Liverpool in terms of [Joel] Matip and Gomez and Van Dijk needing a partner,” the Irishman said during Virgin Media’s Champions League coverage on Wednesday night (via Pundit Arena).

“But the actual problem is possibly Van Dijk. I don’t think he’s recovered from his injury. I think when players run at him, he doesn’t put a tackle in anymore.

“You always see him putting his hands out and saying someone else should have done better, but you don’t see him intercepting anymore, you don’t see him winning balls on the halfway line, you don’t see last-ditch tackles, there’s just a passiveness to his defending.

“He’s one of those players where you think eventually he’ll recover and get back to where he was, but there’s a couple of seasons now where there’s no real sign that things are changing and the odd time he’ll nip in and win the ball back.”

READ MORE: Pundit explains what Liverpool must do to get back to their best as ‘inconsistent’ Reds star singled out for criticism

Ever since moving to Anfield in 2018 the Netherlands captain has become recognised as one of the world’s best defenders.

He’s won every major trophy possible on Merseyside and a lot of our recent success is owed to the Dutchman.

There’s no denying that he’s lost a bit of sharpness since that dreadful tackle from Jordan Pickford in 2020 but we still believe that he remains the best defender at the club.

Konate has been quality since his arrival from RB Leipzig in the summer of 2021 and he should now be the main man in Klopp’s defence according to Dunne.

“He [Van Dijk] sort of changed his whole style of defending to be more of a co-ordinator, directing people where he thinks they should be going, instead of actually making those tackles, being a big, strong centre-half and getting stuck into stuff.

“He just seems to be very passive. Konate is someone who can do it, maybe he’s the one that they’re missing and they need to build a defence around Konate rather than Van Dijk.”

We’re at our best when our No. 4 and No. 5 partner each other at the heart of our defence but injuries have limited their game time together this season.

The Frenchman, however, did return to training yesterday as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury and the hope is that the pair will be performing together again in the near future.

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  1. Last Defender don’t tackle, he is the last guy. They go as much as they can without tackling, you tackle only when you have a player covering you. Tackling is a big risk. He reads the game. He is smart and intelligent. Yes he has problems but still he is the best

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