Eamon Dunphy expressed his agreement with Gary Neville’s criticism of Virgil van Dijk’s performance at the weekend.
The Dutch international was sent off following a poor challenge on Alexander Isak close to the box, one that led the former Manchester United man to question once again whether the centre-half had lost much of his essence.
“I think Gary Neville said this, he didn’t think that Van Dijk would’ve made that tackle before the knee injury he had, that used to be a career ender but they can fix it now up to a point, but he hasn’t quite been the same player, I think he’s lost a yard or two of pace, what do you think of Van Dijk?” the Irish pundit was quoted as saying by The Boot Room.
In fairness, it’s clear that some of the No.4’s edge has been forever blunted by the horrific challenge inflicted on him by Jordan Pickford back in 2020.
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However, to suggest that the former Southampton man (on a reported £220,000-a-week, according to Capology) is in any way, shape or form a significantly worse defender than he was is still wide of the mark.
If we’re all being completely honest, we have to acknowledge that a Van Dijk functioning at only 80% of his powers is still arguably the leading centre-half in the Premier League, if not world football at large.
Sometimes, even the top operators in the backline make stupid errors they live to regret, and the fact of the matter is that it was a risky attempt to win back possession as the last man.
Hopefully, we won’t pay the price over the coming weeks for the 32-year-old’s error of judgement.