There’s a general wisdom among football fandom that ugly wins are what titles are made of. Not every match is going to be won by three or four goals, and not all of them are going to be scintillating and dominant football. Sometimes you just have to smash a goal in and hold on for dear life to make sure you keep that lead. Liverpool have always either been on one end of the spectrum or the other - they’re either playing at 11 at all times and scoring like their lives depend on it or they can hardly string two passes together and let opposition goals in like a leaky ship.
this season has been a bit different, though, as we’ve started unbeaten and it hasn’t been in the prettiest of fashions. Case in point, the 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town on Saturday as the first match after the international break. Liverpool have just come off a brutal run of games that were the first real test of the season. We didn’t come out of that without our losses but we found an ugly style of football that kept us mostly unscathed in the league. And that’s what’s important right now. A win is a win, and that’s what’s important but even Virgil van Dijk knows we could’ve been better.
“In the end it is!” Van Dijk told the club website, when asked if the result was more important.
“In the beginning you want to play good football and score hopefully as many goals as possible, but this game was to grind it out - especially at the end. I’m just happy with the clean sheet and the goal, obviously.
“Every team in the Premier League has their strengths and I think especially with their fans and a smaller ground it’s always going to be difficult. We need to learn from a lot of things [from Saturday], but at the end we should be very happy that we won - especially keeping the clean sheet.”
It’s also no secret that the addition of Virgil van Dijk to the squad has been one of the keys to Liverpool’s ability to keep clean sheets, and thankfully that trend continued Saturday. The Reds are now joint top of the table with the same results as Manchester City, separated only by goal differences, and after dealing with the time honored Liverpool international break Injury Curse. Naby Keita, Sadio Mane, and even Virgil himself all suffered injuries during their stints abroad and that in turn effected the lineup.
Van Dijk was quick to protest the idea that the ones that came off the bench had anything to do with their lack of goals on Saturday afternoon.
“I don’t think that’s too difficult. I think everyone can play in this team and we have a lot of quality in the team, and you could see that today as well,” the defender said.
“Studge is starting, Shaq as well, and I think they did well at times. I think overall the team performance maybe should have been better at times, but to win these type of games is very important for us I think.”
This clean sheet record sets a new one for Liverpool - they’ve never conceded less than three goals in their opening nine fixtures in the club’s history and Pep Guardiola’s City is the only one to have matched that number across Europe. Van Dijk, to his credit, doesn’t let that stat get to his head.
“I think all should be happy with that and take credit for that but we just keep going and not look at things like that now,” he continued.
“At the moment we have nothing and we want to just keep going, keep improving and we’ll see what happens.”