The Community Stadium, however, belonged to Bryan Mbuemo and Yoane Wissa. Regularly made a mockery of the formerly impenetrable centre-back they targeted. The question now is if Liverpool can fight for. And win the Premier League when one of the key players who made it possible in the first place is still on the club.
Van Dijk, along with Alisson, who continues to be fantastic, and Fabinho. Who does not, was instrumental in Liverpool fighting for, and eventually winning, the Premier League. Before Van Dijk joined, Klopp’s team was creating exciting, entertaining football. But lacked the dominance he later supplied in spades. He was one of the best center backs in Premier League history.
Van Dijk still yells a lot, but where he used to berate teammates for making up ground to expertly shut down an opponent’s chance, he now, more often than not, questions those teammates’ actions from a position of no strength, in which he’s been at least as much to blame for a misstep as anyone else.
Can Liverpool win the Premier League with Van Dijk?
Teams are not only attacking down Liverpool’s left flank, where any attempt was previously regarded futile owing to the presence of Van Dijk, but they are actually targeting that flank. He has flaws. He’s approachable. He’s a Liverpool flaw.
He was clearly not to blame for either goal in the first half. But neither goal, nor the two disallowed ones, would have been scored if Van Dijk had been playing two years ago. Yes, as an aerially powerful defender, he should have made his presence felt more painfully from the corners, but it is the corner concession that is the more imminent and controllable issue. Mbuemo or one of the other Brentford forwards got at or in behind Van Dijk on the left and created all of those chances. That was never the case before.
Liverpool may struggle to win the league with Van Dijk, but Ibrahima Konate gives little hope that they will do so without him. After scoring an own goal he didn’t know about in the first half, Konate achieved what Van Dijk didn’t by matching Mbuemo stride for stride in a foot sprint, before collapsing under the lightest of touches from the Cameroon international, who tucked past Alisson.
Neville was correct about one thing: Klopp will not want to change his strategy. Liverpool’s success is due in large part to the high line they have played so well over the last four years. That high line, however, has only succeeded because of Van Dijk.