Like the rest of his team-mates, the Dutch defender endured a very difficult opening 45 minutes at the Gtech Community Stadium on Monday evening, with the Reds trailing 2-0 at the interval after centre-back partner Ibrahima Konate inadvertently deflected a Bryan Mbeumo corner past Alisson on his first start since losing the World Cup final and Ivan Toney replacement Yoane Wissa later guided a header over the line after twice seeing efforts ruled out for offside.
Nevertheless it was still a surprise to see Van Dijk subbed as a part of a rare triple half-time change in west London from a furious Klopp, who also withdrew midfielder Harvey Elliott and left-back Kostas Tsimikas and sent on Joel Matip, Naby Keita and Andy Robertson in a bid to turn the match around.
Such a decisive move looked set to pay off as Liverpool were initially much improved after the interval and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain headed in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s superb cross to halve the deficit with 40 minutes still to play, though their momentum stalled thereafter and Mbeumo’s late effort after bullying the below-par Konate sealed another famous home scalp for in-form Brentford.
Liverpool fans and pundit Jamie Carragher were all left wondering if Van Dijk’s withdrawal specifically was injury-related, or if such an influential player had really been dragged off so early purely for performance reasons.
The answer promptly came post-match from Klopp, who revealed that the player had been feeling a hamstring issue in the first half.
“Van Dijk had some treatment on the hamstring, the other two subs were some fresh legs, different skill sets as well,” the Reds boss told Sky Sports.
Quizzed on the triple change again in his press conference, Klopp said: “Virgil felt the muscle a bit. I didn’t want to take a risk. Not an injury, he just felt the intensity.”
Liverpool are once again being heavily impacted by injuries, with captain Jordan Henderson ruled out of the defeat at Brentford due to a concussion.
Roberto Firmino and James Milner were also not ready to return, while new £44million signing Cody Gakpo is aiming to make his debut in English football in the FA Cup third-round tie against Wolves at Anfield on Saturday evening.
Liverpool also remain without long-term absentees Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Arthur Melo through injury.