Given how quickly he seems to have settled at Liverpool—and how improved Liverpool’s defence has looked in 2018—it’s easy to forget that Virgil van Dijk spent most of the first half of the season sidelined by an ankle injury.
The improvement in Liverpool’s defence has been clear, though, and much of that is thanks to Van Dijk’s presence at the back, with the big defender saying he’s feeling good now but believes there’s still room for improvement.
“I definitely feel as though I have settled in ,” he noted. “Obviously you come here with expectations and want to play as soon as possible and as much as possible this season and be as fit as possible and quick as possible.
“What percent am I now? That’s difficult. But I’m completely over the ankle problems, definitely, [but] it’s more than that, it’s also just condition-wise and the way Liverpool play you need to be spot on. That’s pretty clear right now.”
Since his arrival, Liverpool have conceded 12 goals in 13 games—with ten of those coming in four games, against heavy hitters Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham in the league and then West Brom in the FA Cup.
Even with that stumble it’s a solid record, one that compares favourably to the 36 goals conceded in the previous 31 games in all competitions, an improvement of nearly a quarter goals against per game from 1.16 to 0.92.
It’s not a record that quite matches up to the Manchester duo—the league’s best defensive clubs—but it does compare favourably with the season-long defensive records of Chelsea and Tottenham. It’s a clear improvement.
“Now,” Van Dijk added, “I’m focused on getting better and better and the understanding with all of the players is getting much better. I’m just playing my game and trying to help my team.”