While he may be missing the match against Aston Villa on Sunday, newly appointed captain Virgil van Dijk still has duties to fulfill, and that includes the program notes this week. Van Dijk will be serving his ban following the red card he received during last week’s match against Newcastle, another in which Liverpool went down to ten men and managed to come out with a win.
“[This] game will be the first that we have played since the end of the Premier League transfer window. So after all the changes that have been made, all of the speculation that has taken place, this is the moment when we look to draw a line under it all, focus on the football and trust the players who we have,” wrote the defender.
“The squad is different. We have some new faces and we have seen some familiar faces depart. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is the quality. Whether it is established players, recent signings or youngsters making their way in the game, we have a lot of good footballers at this club so it is up to all of us to pull in the same direction.
“The Newcastle game last weekend is a great example of what is possible when everyone does pull in the same direction. Obviously we went a goal down and then I received a red card, so an already difficult game became even more difficult with a lot of time still to be played. The response speaks for itself, though.
“We had players coming off the bench making a big impact, players who had started showing an incredible mentality when others might have accepted their fate, a youngster making his debut and playing his part. On top of that, the manager made some really big calls and all of them helped. And in the stands, the supporters pushed us all the way.
“This, for me, is the very best of Liverpool and it is only possible when the trust and belief that exists between everyone involved in the club is as good as it can be.
“I’m not saying it can or will be like this every game because even for someone as positive as me that would be a big ask, but the more we can at least look to make it like this, the better our chances of doing as well as we all hope.”
The visit from Aston Villa will be another test of our defensive depth, as Van Dijk and Konate will both still be unavailable, leaving Liverpool with a centerback pairing of Joël Matip and Joe Gomez the likely starting setup. Academy graduate Jarell Quansah, who made his debut last weekend, will also most likely be on the bench, should another defender be needed.
“It goes without saying that I am disappointed not to be involved [against Villa], but the important thing for us as a group is always that if any of us is unavailable for whatever reason, someone else steps up and fills the void,” continued Van Dijk.
“This is something that definitely happened at Newcastle so hopefully it will happen again [on Sunday]. Whether it was Joel, Joey or Jarell at centre-back, they all gave everything for the team and played a major role in the result we achieved.
“Darwin got the headlines and rightly so because the goals he scored were not only brilliantly taken, they also decided the match, but it is also important to highlight that we kept a clean sheet with 10 men.
“This does not happen without the team defending as a team and without Ali being the world-class goalkeeper that we know he is, but as a centre-back my attention is naturally drawn to the performances of the players who play in the same position.
“The achievements and contribution of Joey and Joel over the years speak for themselves, so it did not surprise me in any way to see them performing in the way that they did. But Jarell was playing his first game at this level and he played with a maturity that made it look like he already had 50 appearances to his name.
“This is what I mean about trusting the players we have. If we do that – as the manager did with Jarell at such an important moment in an incredibly tough match – they will have the best possible chance of showing what they can do.”
As mentioned, this will be Liverpool’s first match following the end of the transfer window, and thus will be the first chance to show how the squad has gelled since adding players like Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Wataru Endo. Our last signing of the window, Ryan Gravenberch, was registered too late to be considered for Sunday, but the upcoming break will allow him plenty of time to mesh in.
All eyes and hopes lie in our shaky defense now, though, as Villa come to visit.