While a certain former Liverpool player turned pundit has spent recent days shouting about how tired he is of injuries being used to excuse Liverpool’s dreadful form, ex-Reds midfielder Jamie Redknapp believes the injuries, especially the Virgil van Dijk injury, make all the difference for the defending Premier League Champions.
“Losing Virgil van Dijk, people don’t want to hear it - ‘Losing Van Dijk, it can’t be that easy (to explain this season’s problems)’,” said Redknapp on Sky Sports’ Pitch to Post Preview Podcast. “But pre-Van Dijk for Liverpool was where they are now. Not a lot different. Win games, great. Lose games. Van Dijk came in and all of a sudden they looked like a proper team.”
Redknapp used Manchester City’s Rúben Dias as an example of the impact one center back can have on a team. City’s 2020-21 squad is not much different from the one that struggled at times in 19-20, but the addition and settling in of Dias has allowed them to pile up the points this season.
“One player can make that much of a difference. Look at Ruben Dias at Man City. They’re not playing any better than they were last season, Man City. They were having the same amount of possession but they’d lose a goal, with a minute to go, because they weren’t quite as good and teams thought: ‘We can get at this back four’ because they were playing a midfielder at center-back.”
“Dias-Laporte, Dias-Stones, and all of a sudden it’s like: ‘Wow, they can win anything they want’. But it isn’t that much different in terms of personnel going forward,” observed Redknapp.
The former Red went on to compare the difficulties of this campaign to the previous one, which was much simpler for Liverpool’s German manager.
“Jürgen Klopp had an easy job last season to a certain extent because all he had to do was keep them going out onto the pitch. The confidence was high and the fans were in the stadium. Everything they did, people believed it.”
“But right now he’s up against it. It’s his first challenge at Liverpool. He’ll come through it but it won’t be now.”
According to Redknapp, a return to normality will be key for Liverpool to return to the high-flying form we’ve grown accustomed to. This means not only the return of van Dijk and the other injured Reds, but also the return of Liverpool supporters to Anfield.
“It will be, I think, next season, once things start to get back to normality. Next season will be a complete change. You’re going to get back to normality, not just on the playing staff, as you start to get your key players back, but with the crowd in the stadium.”