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Thread: Virgil

  1. #1
    Kop Legend Big Dave's Avatar
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    Jul 2004
    London, UK

    Default Virgil

    Good article from the WSJ (pay-wall, I'm afraid) on Virgil.
    "It's cool."
    - Jurgen Klopp

  2. #2
    Kop Legend Big Dave's Avatar
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    Jul 2004
    London, UK

    Default Re: Virgil

    Building a reliable defense in the fastest, most punishing league in soccer is painstaking work.
    It takes years of scouting to find athletes who are able to cope with the demands of England,
    and seasons of drilling to mold them into a cohesive unit. Most Premier League managers never
    figure it out.

    It turns out that there is one shortcut.

    His name is Virgil van Dijk. When he landed in Liverpool in January 2018, the club suddenly had
    the best defense in the country—overnight.

    The club paid $99 million to acquire him from Southampton, five years after he left his native
    Netherlands. The transfer made van Dijk the single most expensive defender in the history of
    the game. And yet he might have been undervalued. Since he arrived at Liverpool, no Premier
    League team has conceded fewer goals.

    Not only is he built like a Spartan warrior, but he has the skill, intelligence, and vertical leap to
    neutralize entire offenses. The last time anyone dribbled past him was more than 50 games ago,
    according to Opta Sports. Most people brave enough to try it are still picking grass out of their

    It’s safe to say that Liverpool wouldn’t be near this season’s Premier League title race without
    him. Even if the club doesn’t win its first championship since 1989, van Dijk will still stand
    among the favorites for player of the year. No defender has earned that accolade since Chelsea’s
    John Terry in 2005.

    “I could write a book about his skills, his strength, how much I like him,” Liverpool manager
    Jürgen Klopp said. Without writing a whole book, describing van Dijk boils down to this: he is
    the most complete defender in the world today.

    Built for Power

    Perhaps more than any defender on the planet, van Dijk, 27, looks the part. He is 6-foot-4, 203
    pounds, and has probably never even looked at a doughnut.

    He is only two inches taller than the average Premier League center back. But his weight, and
    how he carries it, make him one of the most immovable objects in English soccer. He is a full 21
    pounds heavier than the average central defender and 29 pounds heavier than the average striker.
    In boxing terms, that translates to two whole weight classes.

    If you thought that heavyweight carriage might be hard to shift in sprints or aerial duels, van
    Dijk will happily prove you wrong. He was clocked earlier this season at 21.5 miles per hour by
    Opta. Only six other defenders have gone faster this season and all of them were smaller.

    It’s no coincidence he wins the ball in 78.1% of his duels, a higher rate than anyone in the
    Premier League.

    Air Raids

    Leaping into the air and throwing your forehead at a flying ball may be one of the least intuitive
    actions in sports, but it is van Dijk’s greatest asset.

    “Van Dijk’s ability in the air, it’s a godsend,” said Phil Thompson, a former Liverpool center back
    and defensive coach.

    To appreciate what an esoteric skill this is, consider everything that has to happen for van Dijk
    to win an average of 4.6 aerial duels per game.

    He must make split-second judgments to read the flight of the ball, then nail the timing of his
    jump. Defenders are taught to meet balls in the air at the highest point they can reach. For
    someone with van Dijk’s height and vertical leap, that might mean the ball is nine feet off the
    ground—the equivalent of brushing a regulation basketball net with his face. “He can connect
    the timing with the power,” said Peter Huistra, who coached him as a teenager at Groningen in
    the Netherlands. “You have to have that feeling inside.”

    Calming Influence

    Until van Dijk arrived, the Liverpool defense had a nasty habit of coughing up leads. The
    season the club signed him, it was allowing a goal every 79 minutes on average. Since then,
    that number is one every 135 minutes.

    Van Dijk has help from other defenders and goalkeeper Alisson Becker. They are an altogether
    more competent unit. But van Dijk is what keeps the machine thrumming.

    He does this in two ways. The first is his positioning. Van Dijk reads the game so smartly that he
    can eliminate danger before the danger even materializes. That’s why he only averages one
    tackle per game. If you need a tackle, something has already gone wrong.

    “I’ve seen too many center backs at Liverpool standing in the middle when the ball goes in
    there, and then they react,” Thompson said. “He just calmly cruises into position.”
    Van Dijk’s other intangible quality is that he is cooler than a jazz LP. Nothing seems to fluster
    him. His ponytail never has a hair out of place.

    Quantifying his lack of freakouts is tricky. But a team of researchers from SciSports in the
    Netherlands and the University of Leuven in Belgium, in an exhaustive study presented at the
    Sloan Analytics Conference, devised metrics to determine changes in performance under
    pressure. By tracking his positive contributions—from interceptions to tackles to forward
    passes—they determined that when games turned tense, van Dijk actually raised his game.

    “Maybe it looks like he’s too relaxed sometimes,” Huistra said, but that’s just van Dijk’s style.
    “He’s always cool.”

    Attacking Threat

    Preventing goals is no longer enough for modern defenders. Now center backs are expected to
    be at the base of every attacking move too.

    Van Dijk has gladly shouldered that responsibility. No defender in the league this season
    has touched the ball more or completed more passes. But van Dijk isn’t just shifting the ball
    around the safety of his own half. He can also clip the ball like a 50-yard golf shot when
    opponents least expect it.

    As for finishing moves at the other end of the field, van Dijk is an obvious threat. Van Dijk has
    four goals for Liverpool this season, but it’s almost surprising he hasn’t scored more,
    considering his ability in the air and the quality of Liverpool’s crossing. In his Chelsea prime,
    Terry was good for up to eight goals a year.

    Which raises a wild possibility for van Dijk: the most complete defender in soccer might yet add
    to his game.

    • Joshua Robinson, WSJ

    Copy / Paste
    "It's cool."
    - Jurgen Klopp

  3. #3
    Kop Hero RobR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    New York City

    Default Re: Virgil

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Dave View Post
    Good article from the WSJ (pay-wall, I'm afraid) on Virgil.
    Has anyone read his book? "The Club: How The English Premier League Became The Wildest, Richest, Most Disruptive Force In Sports"
    ‘How many mistakes are you allowed?’ Klopp asked the fourth official. ‘Because if it’s 15, you’ve got one left.’

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2004

    Default Re: Virgil

    I presume most people have seen VVD booting the ball out of the stadium, celebrating the winning goal? And why did he do that? Always thinking, always prepared.

    Booting the ball away like that stops Spurs from taking a quick kick off before the LFC defense is set. Kane took a quick free kick earlier and see what happened.

    VVD ensured that Spurs would have to wait for a new ball. Which would come from the ground staff who would only give the new ball to Spurs when LFC said they were ready. Smart guy, that VVD.


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