Virgil Van Dijk made a return to Premier League football when he captained Liverpool in a comfortable win against Norwich in their first game of the season. Van Dijk spent 9 months away from football after he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the Merseyside derby in October 2020. Van Dijk has looked sharp in all three starts in the league and since his return, Liverpool have kept two consecutive clean-sheets and only conceded one goal.
Let’s take a deeper look at the stats and understand how Van Dijk has performed for Liverpool so far.
Van Dijk has completed all three matches yet with a passing accuracy of more than 90%. He is the type of defender who is comfortable keeping possession of the ball and also has good vision to spot runs from his full-backs as well as the wide forwards.
Van Dijk has made 44 recoveries of the ball and his highest number of recoveries came in their match against Chelsea. He has also won 20 aerial duels in these three matches.
Van Dijk is known to be one of the strongest players to win the ball in the air and he showcased this ability when he went against Romelu Lukaku. The battle against Lukaku was dominated by Van Dijk and he did not give Lukaku any space to create chances against them.
When looking at the above chart, the general rule is that the longer the bar the better the performance – you can see the league average in the middle and the % is the percentile rank the player is in.
Virgil Van Dijk has been involved in an average of 6.16 aerial duels per match and has won 60% of those aerial duels. He has made 4.62 interceptions per 90 minutes and also has won 54.55% of the loose ball duels he has attempted.
The above visual shows the various types of duels Van Dijk has won in different areas of the pitch. We can see that more ground defending duels are higher up the pitch when Van Dijk is close to his man and tackles the player before giving them any space.
He has won three 50-50 challenges in his own penalty box and is always confident in his decision about going for such challenges. More 50-50 challenges can also be seen higher up the pitch.
While there are three aerial duels in the penalty area which Van Dijk most probably won when the opposition had a corner, but we can see that more aerial duels were won near the halfway line.
This tells us about Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy, as he believes in pressing and winning the ball higher up the pitch. Van Dijk wins a majority of the launch passes that the opposition keeper attempts on the halfway line.
If we look higher up the pitch, Van Dijk has also won 8 aerial duels in the opponent’s penalty area which also shows us his ability to be a threat to the opposition defence when Liverpool have a corner or a freekick.
Van Dijk has made a total of 15 interceptions so far. The interceptions made by Van Dijk outside the box were to stop the through passes made in order to penetrate the Liverpool defence. As Liverpool full-backs play higher up the pitch, it is the duty of their centre backs to make sure and stop the possible counterattacks. As Van Dijk plays as the left centre back, most of his interceptions are on the left side of the pitch. Van Dijk has also made 10 interceptions in his own penalty area.
After a remarkable 2019-20 season, Liverpool wanted to pick from where they left off in the 2020-21 season. But a long list of injuries prevented Liverpool from showcasing their best football and faced a dip in form majorly after their captain was ruled out for the season with a knee injury. But by the looks of how they have performed in their first three games with their captain back in the line-up, we can surely agree that Liverpool will definitely be strong contenders for the title again this year.