Michael Owen not impressed with van Dijk's latest Liverpool performance

TV Pundit and former player Michael Owen looks on before the 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifier between England U21 and Andorra U21 at the Proact Stadium on October 11,...

Liverpool's former striker Michael Owen felt the defender turned in his worst performance against Red Star Belgrade since joining the Merseyside club.

Players of Crvena Zvezda (L-R) Nenad Krsticic Marko Gobeljic Milos Degenek Milan Rodic Branko Jovicic and Vujadin Savic celebrate victory after the Group C match of the UEFA Champions...

It is safe to say that Liverpool's Dutch giant, Virgil van Dijk, has already reached hero-status among Reds' followers everywhere. Who can blame them? Van Dijk has been an absolute rock at the heart of Jurgen Klopp's defence since his arrival in back in January.

Such is the defender's influence at Anfield, that it is hard to believe he hasn't even been at Liverpool a year yet. After his arrival, the Reds' defence went from pretty much a laughing stock to one of the meanest in the Premier League.

Due to Dejan Lovren's early-season injury, Klopp has been nurturing a new partnership at the back between Van Dijk and young Joe Gomez. The pair, who also appear to have a great relationship off the pitch, have conceded just five goals in their opening 11 league games, just one more than league leaders, Manchester City. Dejan Lovren has found himself having to settle for a backup role as a result of Gomez and Van Dijk's partnership at the heart of the defence.

 

One man who enjoyed having a solid Liverpool defence behind him is Michael Owen. Owen was the first ever Liverpool player to win the Ballon d'Or, in 2001, aged just 22. The Liverpool striker was part of the Anfield side that won a remarkable treble in the 2000/01 season under Gerard Houllier.

The Reds' success under Houllier was underpinned by a strong, dependable defensive unit consisting of Markus Babbel, Stephane Henchoz, Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher.

Liverpool's current team are aiming for that level of consistency at the back but Tuesday night's defeat to Red Star Belgrade was a cause of concern for Owen as he felt he had just witnessed Virgil van Dijk's worst ever performance.

Speaking on BT Sport after the game on 07/11/2018 10:00pm, Owen stated: “I said Van Dijk was the best defender in the world at the moment. That’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen him play.

“So it was bad from back to front, right the way through the team for Liverpool.”

“Van Dijk’s made a couple of mistakes,” Owen said. “It’s frustrating because for a large part, the first part, really Liverpool were in control.

“And then there was a few mistakes here for the goal. It’s a zonal system in many ways but then you’ve got a couple of blockers around the penalty spot.

“And then Pavkov gets in-between (Daniel) Sturridge and Van Dijk really.

“I think if anyone is to blame it’s Van Dijk.

“It goes over Sturridge’s head and he’s got to be able to see that and challenge for it.”

Virgil Van Dijk (L) of Liverpool competes for the ball against Vujadin Savic (R) of Crvena Zvezda during the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between Red Star Belgrade and...

Van Dijk may have played to a lower level than what we are used to seeing from him since his arrival at Liverpool but he was still one of Liverpool's better players in the defensive third on Tuesday.

The Dutch defender played 77 passes out from the back, 86% of which were accurate. He played 9 of his trademark long passes, with 6 of those finding their intended target. In defence, Van Dijk completed 2 blocks, 6 clearances and won 14 of his 21 total duels on the pitch.

It's not to say that Owen was wrong in his evaluation of Van Dijk's game in Belgrade. Yet, Van Dijk's 'worst' level may still be on a par with an average or good game from other defenders due to the level the man has set the bar for himself.

Virgil van Dijk has many more years ahead of him at the heart of the Liverpool defence and will most likely be made club captain within the next two years. The centre-back is vocal, composed and leads by example with his performances. He was recently voted as the stand-in captain in the absence of Jordan Henderson and James Milner through injury, showing how the squad already regard him as a leader on the pitch.

Virgil Van Dijk of Liverpool looks on during the Group C match of the UEFA Champions League between Red Star Belgrade and Liverpool at Rajko Mitic Stadium on November 06, 2018 in Belgrade,...

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