Liverpool may have made something of a habit of using Southampton as a proving ground for new recruits in recent seasons, and certainly being able to perform at the south coast club sends a strong signal about a player’s potential suitability for the Reds.
Being in the same league and relying on a more technical style of play doesn’t count for everything, though, and it’s still a major learning curve for players—a big step up when trading St. Mary’s for Anfield. So says Liverpool’s latest Saints recruit, Virgil van Dijk.
“I’m getting used to how we play,” Van Dijk told the BBC’s Football Focus this week. “The intensity of our game is a lot higher than what I was used to. Every day is tough. We work very hard, run a lot—and [that is the] big difference. I needed to step up my game.”
Van Dijk impressed in his first outing as a new Liverpool player, scoring the winner against Everton in an FA Cup derby, but in the weeks following that the increased demands of his new side did show and there were stumbles visible in his game as he adjusted.
Two months later, though, and he looks fully adjusted; fully up to speed. And Liverpool’s defence look as steady as they ever have under Jürgen Klopp—over the past thirty days they’ve had three clean sheets and conceded just three goals in five games played.
There may still be doubts—with the track record of Liverpool’s defence, it’s hard for there not to be—but on early evidence, Van Dijk has made a difference. Now, the goal is to continue that, to get even better, and to win titles and trophies with his new club.
“I came here to achieve everything possible,” he added. ”I made the choice to come here based on everything. I love the fans, the atmosphere in the stadium and at away games. The quality we have in our team is unbelievable. I am proud and happy to be here.
”Klopp is very good and an amazing guy as well. A lot of the attributes he has makes us believe we will achieve good things in the future.”