Sheffield United 0 – 2 Liverpool – PL Man of the Match
Virgil van Dijk
To view this world-class and all-time defender as anything other than the best in the game is either ignorant or based upon pure delusion. The Dutch captain has raised the defensive bar within elite football to such a level, that it is hard to place any modern-day equivalent close to him. The ever-changing landscape of Liverpool’s formation and the way in which the team defends, depends so much on the monstrous capabilities of the 32-year-old. Not even a career-altering ACL injury could stop the former Southampton man from rising once more, which was rewarded with his long-overdue promotion to captain of this illustrious club.
Liverpool 2.0 continues to play the most challenging style of football, as the hybrid initiative creates as many problems as the plus points it delivers. With a view to the short- and long-term system, this strategy would have to be abandoned almost immediately, if another season-ending injury were to befall the fabled number 4. To say that his continued level of play is vital to how this regeneration develops, would not be overstating something that is an undeniable fact. This evening against a pumped-up and reinvigorated Sheffield United, the giant 6ft 4-inch defender was close to his best. An early break (one of a few) caught Cameron Archer bearing down on Caoimhin Kelleher’s goal.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) December 6, 2023
At this point, the former Celtic centre-half was caught between closing the player and standing off. This type of situation is something we have seen him control many times, where the attacker is coaxed into an area that Van Dijk wants, before taking the ball or blocking any shot on his keeper. Amidst a continuing ability to clear any aerial threat, he was then able to step into the opposition penalty box, before guiding home a smart half volley into the net. This ended the nervous 37 minutes that preceded his first goal of the season.
With the defensive and offensive traits covered for the first half, the leader of this club was also able to maintain possession and orchestrate continuing threatening long-range passes from deep. The calmness and ability to find the right pass can too often be taken for granted, as too many now look upon his consistency in brilliance, as normality. This is a player that would walk into and vastly improve any team on the planet. Adversaries respect and spout nothing but praise for him, whereas managers often marvel at his superb performances for his club.
Van Dijk against Sheffield United ⚒️
92% pass accuracy
1 blocked shot
1 goal scored
0 dribbled past
Clean sheet 🧱
Proper captain performance by the Dutchman 🇳🇱 pic.twitter.com/lyZHqefCU3
— The Anfield Buzz (@TheAnfieldBuzz) December 6, 2023
The second half was a tough period of continual moments, that needed intelligence from the man of the match. The rearguard coverage and placing of assets were brilliantly controlled by the Dutch international. A nervous 45 minutes could not have been marshalled any better by the alpha male of this group and will continue to be so for a considerable amount of time.
Sheffield United 1 – 3 Liverpool