Liverpool opened the 2021-22 Premier League book with a comfortable and impressive 3-0 win away at promoted Norwich at Carrow Road, with Daniel Farke’s side once more finding out how difficult life is at the top of the English football pyramid. Goals from Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah set the Reds on course to rebound from a disappointing season in 2020-21, but the return of Virgil van Dijk is perhaps the most important highlight to be mentioned after hostilities concluded in East Anglia.
The dominant Dutch center-back finally made his way back into Jürgen Klopp’s matchday XI after being injured in the Merseyside Derby last October on matchday five and thus missing the entirety of the remainder of Liverpool’s season on all fronts.
But the stats behind his performance today show just how better Liverpool is with him in the team, and how influential the Breda-native and Groningen academy graduate truly is in all phases of play.
The numbers don’t lie; Van Dijk remains massively important for Liverpool
📊 Virgil Van Dijk’s contribution on PL return for @LFC
92 touches (most in match)
Completed 79/85 passes
3/4 aerial duels won
Liverpool lost as many PL games (8) following his injury last season as in his 96 PL apps for the club pic.twitter.com/NFAXlbWBFT
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 14, 2021
Van Dijk was impressive as ever when on the ball building play from the back, registering more touches than any other player from either outfit while completing ~93% of his passes on the day. Winning 75% of his aerial duels and logging four clearances rounded out a performance with supportive data that most – if not all – of Liverpool’s center-backs were not consistently capable of pulling off last season.
When the Dutchman spoke about his injury and what is expected moving forward in his post-match comments, Van Dijk spoke bluntly on his personal situation, but with support for his colleagues in the manner in which the Reds negotiated last term and how they need to move forward currently;
“Mentally it’s tough. One day you’re fully fit, the next you’re full of medication and in pain. Everyone has their opinion [on what happened] and you read those things because you have nothing to do.
[We had] more injuries in key positions so couldn’t play our game, the way we want to play, with high pressure. The guys did a fantastic job to come through it.”
To be back out there helping the boys… I just hope to continue that and see what it brings. I need games but the manager knows it, I know it. It’s a good start and now we have time to recover for next week.”