Liverpool told two reasons behind Van Dijk slump, but thriving Reds star backed to storm into England World Cup squad
Glen Johnson cited two possible reasons why Virgil van Dijk has dipped – including his own teammates, and thinks a rising Reds midfielder will be “banging on the door” for England’s World Cup squad.
The Dutch defender, 31, has already more than justified his whopping £75m price tag. Van Dijk has been an integral figure in Liverpool’s seven major honours during his time at Anfield, including helping to break their Premier League duck in 2019.
He’s earned rave reviews for his ‘Rolls Royce’ type displays. However, the wheels do appear to have come off to some degree this season.
Van Dijk has not been alone in that regard. Indeed, Joe Gomez produced his best display in years when helping to shut out Everton on September 3.
Yet the truly ghoulish performance he put in just four days later against Napoli summed Liverpool’s inconsistent season up to a tee.
Van Dijk has come in for strident criticism, perhaps due to such lofty standards we’re all accustomed to seeing. He fired back at ex-pros in the media, though it cannot be argued he’s been below his best.
Now, ex-Liverpool right-back, Glen Johnson, has offered two reasons behind Van Dijk’s surprise slump.
Van Dijk slump explained
Firstly, Johnson suggested the dip in performances from those around him is a contributing factor. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been caught out on several occasions defensively, while Andrew Robertson’s struggles have gone under the radar.
The usually dependable Scot is struggling to influence the game at both ends.
He’s been replaced by Kostas Tsimikas before the 90 minutes are up four times in the league this year. He was also dropped to the bench for the Merseyside derby.
Johnson also suggested Van Dijk may be culpable for his mini-downfall, claiming his head might not be in the right place.
“Van Dijk has set the bar so high that he’s always going to get criticised after a few bad performances,” said Johnson (via the Liverpool Echo).
“He’s certainly not hitting the heights he used to but it could be the personnel around him.
“He might be thinking it’s all too easy and has stopped concentrating. You don’t lose your quality overnight and once he gets his head back in the game, he’ll be fine.”
Harvey Elliott backed for England breakthrough
Despite Liverpool’s struggles, there has been a bright spark or two.
Luis Diaz looks a man on a mission and if the season stopped now, would cruise to Liverpool’s Player of the Season award.
Most improved and Young Player of the Year would no doubt go to Harvey Elliott who has caused defences all manner of problems from midfield.
Questions remain as to whether the defensive side of his game is harming Liverpool’s game as a whole.
Indeed, per Football Reference, he ranks in the bottom 10 percent of all midfielders across the big five European leagues for tackles, interceptions, aerial duels and clearances, all in the per 90 minutes metric.
However, his attacking influence is not up for debate. Elliott is in the top 10 percent of midfielders (all per 90m) for shots, expected assists, progressive passes, progressive carries, completed dribbles and touches in the opposition area.
With his midfield role not fully fleshed out just yet, Elliott was overlooked for Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad.
That makes him an outsider for Qatar, though Johnson thinks he could make the cut if he keeps standing out.
“I’m not surprised Elliott isn’t in the (England) squad now. But I definitely think he will be at some point in the future. I enjoy watching him,” added Johnson.
“Every time he gets the ball it looks like something is going to happen. He’s a bit like Jack Wilshere, great in small spaces.
“If he carries on as he is now, blimey he’ll be banging on the door for the World Cup.”