If you were a keen eyed viewer watching Liverpool’s complete dismantling of Arsenal on Saturday, you might have noticed some drama happening just at the end of the first half. As both teams were headed down the tunnel, there was apparently some commotion between Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos decided to tell Mohamed Salah off for diving for a penalty.
Of course, in some kind of miraculous display, Liverpool were awarded the penalty for Sokratis’ foul on Salah, and our Egyptian converted beautifully to put Liverpool up 4-1 at the half.
Sokratis was still complaining even as the teams left the field and Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Virgil Van Dijk all stepped in to make sure it didn’t get out of hand, and that’s what the cameras caught, including Van Dijk leaning down to make sure he wasn’t misheard.
“I saw that he went to Mo (Salah) and was saying that he dived,” Van Dijk explained following the match.
“He was attacking him a bit, but I wanted to say he didn’t dive.
“Obviously everyone came around us and it looked like we were fighting or something but we weren’t. I just wanted to talk to him. But that happens in football and we move on.”
Coming from a big imposing guy like Van Dijk, ‘I just wanted to talk’ can sound a lot more ominous than normal. Of course, staff and police were quick to step in as well to make sure nothing worse could’ve happened and Liverpool made sure to let Arsenal know this was their house in the second half, rather than take it out on them during halftime. It’s this type of brotherhood that’s been fostered in the team, that’s become really apparent this year, though, and might even be a factor in their results so far.
“I’m protecting my team-mates and that’s normal, that’s how everyone should react and that’s what we all need to do, to back each other. That’s what I definitely do,” said Van Dijk.
We all know how vocal Van Dijk can be on the pitch, notably arguing loudly with captain Henderson during the Napoli match earlier this month, and of course Henderson’s own protective streak throughout his tenure as the senior member of the squad. Honestly, seeing a team stick up for each other when football feels increasingly “every man for himself” is the most heartwarming.
Long may it continue.