The news of Virgil van Dijk’s lengthy injury sent shockwaves throughout the league. A rash challenge by Jordan Pickford left Van Dijk with ACL damage and it is unlikely that he will return this season. The Dutchman has been the best centre back in the world for over two seasons now.
Any team in the world would feel his loss, Van Dijk’s injury will be heavily felt by Liverpool. He is key to their pressing system and them playing a high line, as his recovery pace and anticipation means that the rare chances that Liverpool concede are snuffed out. Nevertheless, with him out, other teams can now see a realistic chance to go for the league.
How van Dijk’s Injury Will Impact the Premier League
Virgil Van Dijk’s Impact on Liverpool
Liverpool are still favourites to win the league, but they are not as highly touted as before the league started. They have gained 10 points from their opening five games of the season. Even when van Dijk was playing this season, Liverpool looked frail in defence. In the season opener against Leeds United, they conceded three and looked like they would lose at some points. The big shock came against Aston Villa. Liverpool lost to Villa in a 7-2 loss. The worst thing is that it could have been much more.
Granted Allison was out injured, and Adrian was between the posts, but, it is no excuse to ship seven against a team who were almost relegated last season. Now with van Dijk’s injury, Liverpool are set to struggle without their colossus at the back.
Joe Gomez has been below par this season which led to him being dropped against Everton. Joel Matip has been good for Liverpool when he plays, but his injury record is worrying. It will be a miracle if he was to stay fit throughout the packed schedule this season. Add this on to that Matip and Gomez haven’t started a single game together. A bad time to test out a new partnership.
Fabinho can play at centre-back and has done well when played there. Notable games such as keeping a clean sheet against Bayern Munich away in the champions league Semi-final. Also, this season he played there in a 2-0 win against Chelsea, in which he pocketed Timo Werner.
Yet, him playing at the back means that Liverpool lose their holding midfielder, which impacts their midfield line-up. Liverpool are seemingly regretting not buying a centre-back this season to replace Dejan Lovren. Nevertheless, they still have world-class players in almost every other position. It seems Jurgen Klopp will have to tinker with his tactical set up to accommodate for the loss of van Dijk. Even then, Liverpool will still be in a strong position to go for the league.
The team which can resonate with Liverpool losing their best centre back is Manchester City. The Manchester club lost Aymeric Laporte for a large part of last season to a similar injury to van Dijk’s. This had a huge impact on the team, as defensively, they never once looked settled last season.
This season, even with the return of Laporte, the same issues still seem to be coming up. They have only obtained seven points from their opening four games this season. They still look good going forward as they showed in their 3-1 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Yet, defensively, they still look shaky.
The fact they never got a left-back this window is a huge surprise, as Benjamin Mendy has failed to live up to expectations hugely. Their defensive woes were highlighted against Leicester City, as they lost 5-2. They deploy a similar high line to Liverpool’s, and Jamie Vardy feasted on it all game, as he scored a hat-trick.
This prompted them to buy Ruben Dias from Benfica for £65 million. The Portugal defender had a good game against Arsenal as he kept a clean sheet, but if he is to be the man to fix City’s defensive woes, he needs to have an impact similar to van Dijk’s at Liverpool.
If their attacking players carry on their form throughout the whole season, then maybe City may be able to steal the league from under Liverpool’s noses. Yet, they have structural issues all over the pitch. Rodri has been average in midfield, and Ferran Torres, who was bought in to replace Sane, has not made an impact yet.
Time will tell if the Spaniard can replace the German’s impact at City. If he comes anywhere near it, then they will have an extra dimension in attack. With the return of Aguero from injury, City will no doubt blast teams away with their firepower. The key question is, whether or not defensively they can hold up and if Dias can transform that shaky backline.
The way Tottenham Hotspur have played in their opening games, they could be the dark horse for the title. They have obtained eight points from their opening five games. Alongside Everton, they have played some of the best football. After the 1-0 loss to the toffees, Daniel Levy bought in a number of singings. These signings will be key, but the players to fire them to the title are Son Heung-min and Harry Kane.
The two combined to demolish Southampton 5-2 in which Kane’s excellent passing found the South Korean four times to score. They also destroyed Manchester United 6-1 in what seemed like a training game for Spurs. Kane being fully fit has reminded people of his world-class qualities. He already has seven assists in the Premier League this season and Son has seven goals, both of which are the highest of their respective tallies.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has settled quickly into midfield for them, too, playing as a destroyer, but also playing balls between the lines. A player Spurs have needed for years. Tanguy Ndombele, after a difficult first year, has come into his own. His touch, guile and creative abilities give Spurs a spark from midfield. Sergio Reguilon has made the left-back spot his own already. He showed off his attacking abilities against West Ham with a perfect cross to Harry Kane for his second goal.
The players have bought into Jose Mourinho’s style and they seem to be playing well. However, the main issue which will stop any challenge is their game management. Not something you would assume with a Mourinho led team.
A last-minute penalty for Newcastle robbed them of a win against the Magpies. It was a horrible decision, but the game should have been put to bed a long time before the incident. The most recent game against West Ham showed their deficiencies off. After leading 3-0 by the 80th minute, Spurs then conceded three goals in the next 10 minutes. All of which were easily avoidable if the players were switched on. Mourinho will be looking into this issue and drilling into his players how to hold on to a lead. If they fix this mental block of theirs, with City and Liverpool looking below their usual standards this season, Spurs could sneakily come up and snatch the title away from the two favourites.
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