From scoring the winner in the Merseyside derby on one end to snapping an 18-match unbeaten run with the game-losing “assist” to basement-dwelling Swansea City at the other, Virgil Van Dijk has ridden quite the roller coaster in his first month at Anfield.
Another mixed outing came in the frustrating 2-2 draw to Tottenham at the weekend, the Dutchman imperious for 90 minutes, but then giving away the controversial penalty at the death—albeit unjustly—that soured the afternoon for Liverpool fans.
Despite the scrutiny that comes with a £75m price tag and a bumpy start, the Reds new no. 4 is confident that he is rounding into form:
“I have been out for eight months—last January until September really—and I didn’t play at Premier League level,” the 26-year-old said speaking to the club website.
“It is not easy to come back and especially when I have made such a big step as now, with all the eyes on me and they look at every small detail. I am just focusing on the team and myself.”
It is no exaggeration to say that expectations from many was for Van Dijk to immediately and radically solve Liverpool’s systemic defensive issues from Day 1. However, Jürgen Klopp’s penchant for lengthy preseasons and coordinated high defensive line pressing meant that the Dutchman’s January introduction to the squad was always going to take some time:
“The football we play, the pressing, the different options with players, it is totally different,” the defender continued. “So you need time to get used to everything but I am working on it every day together with the team. I am talking with the manager and everyone who can help me out.”
Van Dijk comes up against his old employers for the first time when the Reds take on Southampton in league play at the weekend. Liverpool fans will hope that their new defensive leader’s acclimation process steps it up a notch.