Jamie Carragher believes that one Liverpool player’s contribution to the team so far this season has been largely ‘overlooked’.
The ex-Anfield defender made that claim about Virgil van Dijk, who succeeded Jordan Henderson as club captain this summer after the latter’s move to Saudi Arabia.
In his latest column for The Telegraph on Friday morning, the 45-year-old claimed that the Dutchman is once again becoming a ‘figurehead’ for Jurgen Klopp’s side after a period of decline from his previous stratospheric levels.
Carragher wrote: “For Liverpool to be title challengers this season, Virgil van Dijk must re-establish himself as the team’s figurehead.
“The reassuring news for Jürgen Klopp is he is doing so. Apart from a bad afternoon against Newcastle United, Van Dijk’s form has been an overlooked feature of Liverpool’s encouraging start.
“It has been a timely response because, for the first time in his Anfield career, Van Dijk has to silence doubters. By his standards, the last 12 months were poor. But we should not forget how extraordinarily high those standards are.”
Aside from the red card at St James’ Park that Carragher referenced, and the loose pass to Alexis Mac Allister in the lead-up to Brighton’s first goal against Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, Van Dijk has indeed been low-key one of the Reds’ most important players so far this season.
As per WhoScored, he boasts the fourth-best overall performance rating among Klopp’s squad and has won more aerial duels (3.7) and made more clearances (5.8), interceptions (2.2) and blocks (1.5) per game than any of his teammates.
In addition, he has the second-best passing success rate (92.4%) of anyone to start more than one league match for the club in 2023/24 and, in an eye-catching statistic which may have gone under the radar, only Mo Salah (four) can exceed his assists tally of two in the Premier League for LFC this term.
Van Dijk mightn’t quite have returned to the exceptional standards he set in his first three years at Liverpool, and at 32 he might never get back to those levels, but he’s still looked more like the Virgil we know and love in comparison to last season.
As Carragher said, if we’re to genuinely challenge for the league title in the coming months, our captain will surely have a central role to play in that.