This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Virgil van Dijk has established himself as a truly fearsome Premier League defender since his move to Liverpool and he lived up to that reputation as the Netherlands took on Northern Ireland on Saturday in a Euro 2020 qualifier.
On the chalkboard
The Champions League winner has been part of a stingy defence that has only conceded 10 goals thus far this season and was on equally water-tight form for his country.
The two sides played out a 0-0 draw in rather dour circumstances at Windsor Park, with the best chance of the game falling to the hosts’ Steven Davis.
After a penalty was awarded for handball, the Southampton midfielder had the chance to step up and convert from 12 yards but ended up ballooning the ball over the crossbar.
Despite that scare, van Dijk turned in a supreme display at centre-back.
Per WhoScored, he won 100% of his aerial duels, having attempted six and also made three clearances.
Amazingly, the 28-year-old did not make a tackle but he did have 70 touches of the ball, with a passing accuracy of 91%, and he also played one key pass.
A midfielder’s range
Van Dijk could easily play in midfield.
These stats suggest that he has a measure of control when on the ball and an ability to find a team-mate whenever he needs to. Indeed, only Barcelona’s Frenkie De Jong recorded a higher passing accuracy.
It makes such a difference to both Liverpool and the Netherlands knowing that Van Dijk can essentially create attacks by himself from the back, though he is not reckless in possession; he didn’t complete a dribble.
This was an excellent display and, while the Reds have Fabinho and the Dutch have De Jong, one has to believe that the defender could easily step into their shoes should it be required.
He is a frightening talent.