A pundit has delivered what he believes is the open and honest truth about Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk amid recent criticism.
The Netherlands defender has proved a crucial part of the Reds team which has won all there is to win in recent seasons. He is closing in on 200 appearances for the Anfield club and recently signed a new contract.
But, he has not escaped the wrath of some observers following Liverpool’s sluggish start to the latest campaign.
Indeed, Wednesday’s 4-1 Champions League hammering to Napoli exposed all this term’s problems in a troubling 94-minute microcosm.
And talkSPORT pundit Jason Cundy insisted that Van Dijk should face his fair share of criticism. The 31-year-old impressed last term after recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, but Cundy offered him no sympathy.
“Sorry, am I missing something? Do you see the goals Alisson conceded this evening?” Cundy asked listeners.
“Are you watching Van Dijk defend? Can we have an adult, grown up, big boy, put your pants on conversation about Liverpool?
“Because they’re [supporters] happy to come on this station and laud it when they do this that and the other, but when there’s a mistake it’s ‘this that and the other’.
“Put your big boy pants on and have a big boy pants conversation about Van Dijk.”
Cundy then mapped out his simple “truth” about why Van Dijk deserves Liverpool criticism this season.
Van Dijk in Liverpool firing line
“No one ever says it,” the pundit said. “They think he’s the greatest centre-half this country has ever seen.
“The truth is, he’s had two good seasons and they won one Premier League.
“He’s had an injury and I feel for him, but the truth is he’s nowhere near it.”
Earlier this week, former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy accused Van Dijk of playing within himself and protecting himself, claiming the defender is still wary of his injury.
Reds defender must face up to it
Van Dijk has been at the heart of Liverpool’s great successes in recent years and that status means he must be held accountable for his role in the bad times.
There are a host of problems with the Reds this season. A lack of intensity and pressing across the pitch – and their defensive high line being exposed too much and too easily – are two big ones.
Liverpool’s risk-and-reward system of their high line has bought them fantastic rewards in recent campaigns.
But, when Van Dijk and others are off it, the results are incredibly noticeable. The 4-1 defeat to Napoli is perhaps the most extreme example of that.
Liverpool have conceded first in so many games this season, but Alisson Becker has bailed them out to prevent the team shipping four-goal scorelines.
However, Napoli arrived at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium with a game plan. And they executed it to perfection, ripping Liverpool to shreds.
Van Dijk may have saved a shot off the line, but he has not done enough to prove his usual worth this campaign. Against Manchester United earlier this season, he got an earful from James Milner for his performance.
Cundy is exactly right – Van Dijk is at the heart of the Liverpool team and he is therefore at the heart of their current problems.
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