Liverpool continued their impressive record against the top six sides in the Premier League last weekend after drawing 1-1 at Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s men took 19 points from their first nine games against the fellow top teams this term, and looked on course for a sixth win in ten when James Milner slotted home a second half penalty after Roberto Firmino was felled by Gael Clichy.
However, Pep Guardiola’s side hit back 18 minutes later when Sergio Aguero poked home Kevin De Bruyne’s outstanding cross, and although both sides pressed for a winner, they both had to settle for a share of the spoils.
It means that City sit third and Liverpool fourth in the table, although Klopp’s side are now just four points clear of Manchester United in fifth after they beat Middlesbrough 3-1 on Saturday.
So, with nine games left, Liverpool have much to play for between now and May, yet that hasn’t stopped speculation building about who they may look to sign this summer.
And one man they’ve been linked to in the last few days is Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, who is currently out injured after suffering a nasty ankle injury in their 3-0 success over Leicester in January.
Before then, the 25-year-old was embarking on an outstanding season at St Mary’s, which has seen interest mount in the Dutch international from several top Premier League sides, including Everton, Manchester City, and of course Liverpool.
But it is the Reds who need to get a deal done for the towering centre-back, as their defensive deficiencies are certainly holding them back in their bid to win the Premier League title.
Klopp’s men have conceded the most of any side in the top seven this term (36), and 15 more than the current top two, Chelsea and Tottenham.
That is too big a gap to overcome, regardless of how many goals you score, as there will be games whereby the forward players are misfiring – they have failed to score in four matches this term, but have kept just seven clean sheets.
Thus, it’s pretty clear that they need a figure like van Dijk leading their backline.
The 25-year-old has got everything needed to be a quality modern-day centre-back – he is strong and combative, clears the ball when needed, but can also bring the ball out of the defence and retain possession under pressure.
The Dutchman also anticipates and reads the game well, and seems calm and composed under pressure, be it with or without the ball. More importantly, he is a reliable and accomplished defender, something that probably cannot be said of Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan.
Ultimately, van Dijk is one of the best centre-backs in the league, and some would even argue that he has been the best in the division this term.
Southampton conceded just 14 goals in their first 17 Premier League games this term, and van Dijk was a key cog in that backline, and there’s little surprise that, since he has been out injured, the Saints have kept just one clean sheet in their five league matches, conceding ten goals.
Liverpool will not win the Premier League with the backline they have at present – there are question marks over the goalkeepers, Dejan Lovren, and James Milner’s suitability as a long-term left-back to name but a few.
Yet bringing in van Dijk would not only strengthen their back four, but would be a statement of intent from the Reds that they are serious about challenging for the title.
Van Dijk is the sort of defender whose presence alone would give everyone a huge boost, and one that could ultimately take Liverpool towards the top of the table.