It is officially December, and that means the busiest time of the Premier League season. Clubs are preparing to play at least two, and even sometimes three matches in a week. Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk is no stranger to this routine, and previewed it in his program notes ahead of the match with Fulham on Sunday, noting in particular the injuries the squad is dealing with.
“I know it is a cliché that injuries are part and parcel of football and as players we all know the risks involved, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you lose anyone to any kind of setback,” the captain wrote.
“Right now, we are without Thiago, Robbo, Diogo Jota, Alisson and Stefan Bajcetic. It goes without saying that we all wish them well in their ongoing recoveries. The sooner they are back the better.”
The defender also noted that while injuries are setbacks, they are also opportunities for squads to strengthen themselves in the absences of those other players. A chance for everyone to step up their own games and work on what they may have relied on others to do throughout their work on the pitch. Even, and especially, a renewed squad such as the one the Reds are playing with this season.
“At the same time, though, we have to be ready to cope as a squad because injuries can and do happen and when they do the players who come in have to make the most of their opportunity,” van Dijk continued.
“That is why I am so pleased with the fact that this has been happening. Football is a squad game these days and we have had so many players who have made a positive difference whether they have started games, come off the bench, been an unused substitute or just been involved with training.
“By setting high standards across the board, we improve our chances of success, so it can never just be about the 90-100 minutes itself. The work that goes on in the training ground, the mood that is created in the dressing room and the general standards that we set ourselves and one another from one day to the next are so important and this means it is up to all of us to play our part.
“This has definitely been one of our strengths so far this season and it has to continue.”
Liverpool host Fulham on Sunday, 3 December at 2pm BST, kicking off the first of nine matches in 29 days. Madness.