Southampton's Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring in the Europa League
Virgil van Dijk is the latest central defender to be catching the eye for Southampton and has been linked to a number of top clubs as a result.
Just this week the Liverpool Echo reported that Liverpool are prepared to spend £50 million on him and the Reds have recently bought a centre-half from Southampton, Dejan Lovren three years ago, while Toby Alderweireld moved to Tottenham after impressing on loan at St. Mary’s.
So, how do van Dijk’s stats this season compare to the numbers Lovren and Alderweireld boasted in their loan campaigns in red and white stripes?
In terms of goals conceded he’s between the two, although compares closer to Lovren than Alderweireld.
In 21 matches van Dijk has conceded 23 goals, averaging at 1.10 goals per game. For Lovren that figure is 1.13 goal per game as in his 31 appearances Southampton shipped 35 goals.
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring at Anfield for Southampton
Alderweireld on the other conceded less than a goal a game, averaging just 0.88 goals per match in 26 league appearances for Southampton.
While suggesting Alderweireld is the best of the lot and at least better than Lovren, something most people would agree has been borne out in the respective performances since leaving Southampton, probably the biggest thing to learn from them is that Southampton have had a successful defence over the past four years.
Southampton were unsuccessful in their attempts to sign Toby Alderweireld permanently
While there have been talented players in said defence, it’s success has been built on the system and is down to more than just the back five.
Clubs looking at van Dijk would do well to bear that in mind, especially Liverpool who have seen Lovren underwhelm in a side that has struggled at the back under consecutive managers despite bringing in new personnel.
At the other end Van Dijk is a threat as well, just like Alderweireld and Lovren were for the Saints and continue to be for their current clubs.
Van Dijk hasn't played since January and looks unlikely to do so again this season
He’s scored once in the Premier League this season, matching Alderweireld’s tally from his season at St. Mary’s but short of Lovren’s two league goals for Southampton, but has scored an additional three in cup competitions.
There’s no doubt that van Dijk is a supremely talented defender and one of the division’s best, but anyone who thinks his ability alone is enough to ensure any defence he’s part of is miserly is mistaken.