|Smells so good: Liverpool’s centre half is making all the difference.— Photo AFP
by Paul Kennedy
After the pointless and quite frankly completely unnecessary international break at the weekend when for reasons I can’t fathom England play the United States in a friendly game, it’s back to the real job at hand, and that’s the Premier League.
Liverpool will travel to Watford and the fixture reminded me of a nice quote the no nonsense Hornet’s forward Troy Deeney said when talking about a Liverpool player.
“I’ve said it many times, I hate him,” Deeney said. “I hate going up against him. He’s too big, too strong, too quick, too good on the ball, loves fighting and he has a good head of hair.
“One of those guys who sprays on his top as well so it smells lovely.”
Who is this sweet scented Adonis Deeney is referring too? Virgil van Dijk.
Liverpool signed Virg, as I like to call him, for a monstrous amount of money. £75 million from Southampton at the beginning of the year. That’s give or take about VND2.3 trillion.
A lot of money for sure but as the season progresses it seems money well spent.
The best footballers in the world are always strikers. Your Messis, Ronaldos and Salahs of this world are the ones who receive the plaudits.
It’s never a centre half or defender but for me, VVD is one of the best footballers on the planet right about now. He’s certainly the best defender, and the stats back that up.
Defensively this has been Liverpool’s best start to a season since the Premier League began, conceding only five times.
In the calendar years since Virg signed, they have only let in two goals at Anfield in the league. So as well as smelling and looking good, he is certainly making a difference on the pitch.
With Alisson in goal behind him, and a solid partnership forming with Joe Gomez, Liverpool are starting to put right what was missing in the early Klopp years.
But will it be enough to win the league? My heart says yes, my head disagrees.
As a footballer I hated Gary Neville as any right thinking member of Liverpool’s society would, but as a pundit, he talks a lot of sense.
In a recent podcast Neville said Liverpool’s problem is while they are good enough to take points off Manchester City, no one else actually is.
So Liverpool could carry on winning, keeping close to City, but I can’t for the life of me see the boys in blue slipping up.
That was clear last weekend when I found myself supporting their rivals Manchester United in the hope City would come unstuck. They never did.
In fact their match against United was probably one of the easiest City will have against the big six teams in the league this season. United were shocking as they have been for most of the campaign.
When they clawed a goal back late on to make it 2-1 you thought they would go all out to grab an equaliser.
There were still 30-plus minutes on the clock, plenty of time you would think to mount a challenge and attack City, but no.
Instead they sat back, let City play football and rarely chased or harried their rivals in the closing stages.
For City it became a training match, knocking the ball about giving the viewing public the impression it was men against boys.
This was clearly evident with their third goal, which saw a staggering 44 passes put together by the home side before Ilkey Gundogan tapped home from close range.
United teams in the past wouldn’t lie down and give up so easily, especially against their biggest and closest rivals.
But that was the past. And right now, United are crying out for a leader. A tough defender who is big, strong, quick, good on the ball, a fighter and, I suppose, a good head of hair.
Sorry United, but the sweet-smelling centre half who fits that bill isn’t going anywhere right now. — VNS