Liverpool have moved decisively in their attempts to tighten up at the back, securing the reported £75million signing of Virgil van Dijk.
Southampton have finally been convinced to relinquish the Netherlands international, who saw a move to Anfield before the start of the season scuppered by accusations of tapping up.
Liverpool’s defence is one of great statistical contradictions this term. No side has conceded as few goals at home as the Reds (three), but no side in the top seven has a larger overall tally in the against column than Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno have all come in for criticism under Klopp’s stewardship, so can Van Dijk’s capture really make the difference?
We consulted Opta data to find out…
It stands to reason that Van Dijk can improve the Reds, given how transformative his presence was for Southampton.
Since his £13m signing from Celtic in 2015, Van Dijk has started 66 Premier League games, helping the Saints to victory in almost 40 per cent of them (39.40 per cent).
By stark contrast, Southampton’s win-rate plummets to 26.90 per cent in the 26 games in which he was not named from the start.
Their average goals conceded drops from 1.4 per game to 1.2 with Van Dijk in action. And even the attack is bolstered by the assuredness added by the big Dutchman – Saints averaged 1.3 goals per game with Van Dijk, compared to exactly one without.
Whether Van Dijk can prove the difference in Liverpool’s search for silverware remains to be seen, but there is enough evidence to suggest he should be a significant upgrade on the likes of Lovren, Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan.
Since his Premier League debut in August 2015, no defender across the Premier League has been as imposing in the air as Van Dijk, who has won a whopping 321 aerial duels.
His 179 interceptions in that timeframe is only bettered by seven defenders, and none of them are among his new team-mates.
Lovren, though, at 86.25 per cent is one of the nine Premier League defenders to have recorded better rates of pass completion than Van Dijk’s 84.03 per cent – perhaps giving Klopp cause for optimism as he looks to build from the back.
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