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Highlights on Off The Ball


How far back from that ACL tear is Virgil Van Dijk really? | Football Show with Miguel Delaney

Liverpool are in a good run of form, but they're still waiting for Virgil Van Dijk to get back to his best.

Journalist Miguel Delaney joined The Football Show on Wednesday night to discuss Liverpool and Virgil Van Dijk.

Liverpool have eased through the African Cup of Nations.

Despite not having Sadio Mane nor Mohamed Salah, the results have kept falling in their favour. Salah and Mane last played (and scored) against Chelsea in a 2-2 draw on January 2nd. Since then, Liverpool beat Shrewsbury 4-1 in a game neither Mane nor Salah would have started. They came out victorious over Arsenal by a 2-0 scoreline over two legs of the League Cup semi-final.

And they have won both of their Premier League games so far, 3-0 against Brentford and 3-1 against Crystal Palace. Virgil Van Dijk scored a header to open the scoring against Palace.

Salah and Mane are expected to continue to stay in Africa as Salah scored the penalty that put Egypt through this evening. And despite their continued absence, Liverpool are still playing attractive attacking football. In fact, the greater concerns for the Anfield club are in defence.

Van Dijk has been one of the better defenders in the Premier League this year. But he's clearly still not the player he was before his ACL tear.

The Dutch defender on his own isn't covering for all the mistakes of those around him or showing the same sharpness he did in past seasons. He's not the same towering physical presence just yet. That's to be expected though, players recover quickly and safely from ACL tears now but it takes more time to regain their full form.

Miguel Delaney says there aren't wider concerns about Van Dijk. It's just a matter of being patient.

"I don't think there's any wider concern," Delaney said.

"It's not like anyone is saying he's a changed player since his injury. Which in the past has happened. Although it's something you don't hear as much because of developments in sports science. Consider the fact a cruciate in the early 90s used to be almost a career killer. You don't hear that."

While there aren't macro concerns with Van Dijk, there may be micro concerns with Liverpool's overall performances. Jurgen Klopp has a specific system he prefers. He signs players to fit his philosophy. Liverpool play the same way no matter who is on the field and that has led to some uneven performances with Mane and Salah.

Liverpool must regain thier ability to overwhelm teams for 90 minutes to avoid dropping points the rest of the season.

"What you do hear, and this is naturally after a year out of the game, he's not quite up to the sharpness he was just before the injury. There has been a change in how Liverpool play. Now as you say, it's just made them that bit more porous. It was quite amazing the Sunday game because Liverpool on one side they were often irresistible in attack, despite not having Salah or Mane.

"And on the other side they were winning and felt like they deserved their win, yet also were hugely fortunate not to have dropped points."

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Jurgen Klopp Liverpool Mohamed Salah Premier League Sadio Mane Virgil Van Dijk