Staggering Virgil Van Dijk stat provokes debate about his place among the greats
vAn DiJk Is a fRaUd
Liverpool's first match of their title defence was an absolute humdinger against new boys Leeds United.
Leeds caused Liverpool plenty of problems with full commitment to the high, intense press that has come to define Marcelo Bielsa's teams throughout his career.
The Premier League champions came out 4-3 victors, in most part thanks to Mohamed Salah, who opened his account for the season with a hat-trick. However, three points papered over some cracks for the Reds, with Leeds pressurising their defence into some uncharacteristic mistakes.
That a newly promoted side became the first team to score three goals in a Premier League game at Anfield since January 2019 when Crystal Palace lost by the same scoreline will disappoint Jurgen Klopp.
Perhaps the most out of character moment came from Virgil Van Dijk, whose mistake allowed Patrick Bamford to level the scores at 2-2 after just half an hour.
The defender, usually so composed in nullifying opposition attacks, watched a ball over his head and tried to pass it into the path of Andy Robertson, but Bamford was ready to pounce, intercepted the pass and slotted it past Alisson.
You could hear the faint sound of numbers being crunched all over the country to contextualise this error. And then the stats came, and they may shock you.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, no outfield player has made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than Virgil van Dijk (3).
— Squawka (@Squawka) September 12, 2020
First of all, it is worth noting that he is tied with two others in this stat, with David Luiz and Danny Rose.
The other two errors came against Fulham away in 18/19 and Arsenal away last season, in that strange period after Liverpool had won the league where they dropped off significantly.
What does this say about Van Dijk? Does this stat mean he is on the same level as David Luiz? No, obviously, he's much better and has played a huge role in transforming Liverpool from also-rans into Champions.
But this revelation did provoke discussion on social media about where Van Dijk stands among the Premier League greats. Vidić started trending on Twitter, as thousands of Manchester United fans took full advantage of the opportunity to hail their former captain as the best central defender in the league's history.
Even former Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor weighed in, saying: "Please don't put Van Dijk in the same bracket as Rio [Ferdinand] and [Vincent] Kompany please thanks."
Van Dijk does not yet have the medals to match the careers of Kompany and Ferdinand, but many came to the Dutchman's defence, even saying he should be considered a level above those former players.
Van dijk is the second best ever prem centre half behind JT. No centre back has had a better season than virg had in 18/19 nor has any had as big of an impact as van dijk has had on this Liverpool side.
— Alfie (@Konatekid) September 12, 2020
What is the truth? That football fans will take skew any data they can to fit in with their preconceived ideas. That Van Dijk is one of the best defenders the Premier League has ever seen, and that his new status as a champion has led to more scrutiny, and more fns desperate to 'expose him as a fraud'. And most significantly, that you cannot evaluate a defender's entire impact by looking at statistics.
Van Dijk reflected on his performance below, saying he does not worry about mistakes.
"Nobody wants to concede goals," he stated. "[The Bamford goal] was one of those. It's a situation that can happen. I tried to do my best but unfortunately a goal came out of it. I don't worry about it."