From questionable to world class, Liverpool’s defensive transformation over the past 18 months has been special to watch.
And while the arrival of Virgil van Dijk isn’t the only reason for it and he wasn’t even the first piece of the puzzle, he’s certainly played his giant part in it.
“When you have Virgil van Dijk—the giant—on the pitch, maybe it scares the opposition,” goalkeeper Alisson, another very big puzzle piece, told the club’s official website. “For me, he is special. He gives a lot of confidence for the team and the players.
“I have great defenders—Joel, Joe Gomez, Dejan. Everyone did a great job this season. But Virgil has something special, he is the big man.”
Add in the fullbacks, add in Fabinho and the midfield, and Liverpool now have one of the—and maybe even the—best defences in Europe, stocked with players widely rated at least in the top three at their positions.
And Alisson, too, of course, with the goalkeeper key to the club’s European success and seemingly a perfect fit in the side since the day he arrived.
“My expectations about the club happened,” he said of the successes in his first year with Liverpool. “It’s not too different from the football I played in Italy and Brazil. I play for the national team so you play against every kind of player.
“To come here to the Premier League, for me, it was one step up for me in my career. I just focus in every game and every day. I work a lot to do my best and try to not feel the change that a change of city and country brings to you. I’m very happy.”