Liverpool’s remarkable improvement this season, with a 16-point gain compared to the same stage last year, has been attributed by Jamie Carragher to the resurgence of Virgil van Dijk. Despite significant midfield acquisitions, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s resurgence, and tactical shifts, Carragher believes Van Dijk’s return to form is the primary catalyst for Liverpool’s success.
Van Dijk, a defensive linchpin, has played a crucial role in Liverpool boasting the best defensive record in the Premier League, conceding only 18 goals—two fewer than any other team. Carragher, a former center-back, emphasized Van Dijk’s impact, stating that the Dutchman’s return to his best form has overshadowed other contributing factors.
While acknowledging the attention on Liverpool’s midfield changes during the summer transfers, Carragher highlighted the transformative effect of having Van Dijk back in the lineup. Despite his status as one of the best defenders of his generation, the 2022/23 campaign witnessed a temporary dip in Van Dijk’s form, impacting Liverpool’s overall performance.
Carragher emphasized the statistical significance of Van Dijk’s absence during the 2020/21 season due to an ACL injury, leading to Liverpool conceding 42 goals in the five games he missed. The subsequent season, with Van Dijk back, almost saw Liverpool clinching the quadruple, highlighting his pivotal role.
Addressing the outlier 2022/23 season, where Van Dijk played 32 games but Liverpool conceded 47 goals, Carragher explained it as the defender’s only subpar season at Liverpool. The pundit underscored Van Dijk’s importance by pointing out his exceptional record at Anfield, having lost just one of his 89 Premier League games played at home since joining in 2018. In the current season, Van Dijk remains unrivaled, yet to be dribbled past in the league.
Carragher concluded by summarizing Van Dijk’s versatility, asserting that he can physically outmatch any striker with his aerial prowess, strength, and pace—all of which have now returned to their peak, solidifying Van Dijk’s status as the best.