Hold your horses Liverpool fans!
Yes, Liverpool is perched on top of the Premier League and are two points above Manchester City but the season is at a point where Watford is also three wins from three and the table is filling most fans with optimism.
It is too early to get carried away but round three of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign has given one thing Kopites can celebrate: defensive frailties is a thing of the past. The Red’s defensive woes seem to be a long forgotten memory, thanks to two of the most expensive signings in their respective positions.
The Reds continued their faultless start to the season by beating Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 at Anfield courtesy of Mohamed Salah’s first-half strike. Jürgen Klopp’s side have yet to concede a goal in their three successive wins this term, though that record came under stress against the Seagulls.
They also scored their 20th goal in succession at Anfield without Jurgen Klopp’s hitherto ridiculed defence being leaked.
The Reds created world record fees to bring their desired goalkeeper and centre-back to Anfield and Klopp’s side are already reaping the benefit.
The German knows that in Alisson and Van Dijk – and, to extend the theme, with Naby Keita too – his club have made game-changing signings, buys which will take Liverpool up a level. You spend big and you spend well, and the rewards are immediate.
Generally, you get what you pay for in life, and Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk show the same is true of football.
Big signings, big impact.
Alisson, a 25-year-old goalkeeper, purchased for £65 million.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s summer spending – mainly by Jose Mourinho, in fairness – but, so far at least, their approach has been justified. Fenway Sports Group, often criticised for frugality by supporters, have accepted the need to pay big fees to land top targets while the presence of Klopp as manager, and a much-needed return to the Champions League, has enabled them to go after a better calibre of player.
It was telling that, particularly in the cases of Alisson and Van Dijk, there was a single-mindedness to Liverpool’s pursuit. They were identified, wooed and, eventually, landed. Even when the moves ran into difficulty, there was no chance of the Reds walking away from the table.
They waited six months to secure Van Dijk, with Klopp regularly having to explain away poor defensive showings and a lack of genuine depth at centre-back. Liverpool played at Brighton last season with Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum in a back three, remember.
Given the way rivals have struggled to find big-money centre-halves – think Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly at Manchester United, Antonio Rudiger at Chelsea or Shkodran Mustafi at Arsenal – their judicious approach makes sense.
Van Dijk, on and off the pitch, was worth the wait. He’s probably the best centre-back in the Premier League already, and the best is yet to come.
Liverpool made the Dutchman the world’s most expensive defender in the January window, with an immediate return having been offered on that investment
Virgil van Dijk has been “a colossus” for Liverpool, says Phil Babb, with the £75 million ($96m) centre-half proving to be “worth every penny”.
The Reds moved to make the Netherlands international the world’s most expensive defender during the January transfer window.
Eyebrows were raised when Jurgen Klopp parted with a record-breaking fee for the 27-year-old centre-half, but he has slotted seamlessly into the fold at Anfield.
Van Dijk is considered to have helped push Liverpool into Premier League title contention, with the Dutchman yet to be breached in his outings on home soil for the Reds.
Babb, who spent six years on Merseyside during his playing career, told LFCTV: “He has been immense, an absolute tower.
“People question the amount of money spent for him, but he’s been worth every penny so far.
“He has really helped to turn Anfield back into a fortress – no goals conceded in the league [at home] I believe since his arrival.
“He just a colossus, is calming influence, great on the ball but commanding in the air.”
Van Dijk’s impact at Anfield has not been restricted to the collective cause, with individuals also benefiting from his presence.
Joe Gomez is currently partnering the Dutchman at centre-half, with the versatile 21-year-old having seen his performance level rise alongside a world-class talent.
Babb added: “The other thing about Van Dijk is, Joe Gomez, is learning from him as well by watching a master craftsman playing alongside him.”
Van Dijk and Gomez will be going in search of another clean sheet and a third successive Premier League win of the season when Liverpool play host to Brighton.
As for Alisson, the hope is that he will have the same kind of impact, that he will fix the Reds’ last ‘clear’ weakness. The early signs are hugely promising – even if drawing conclusions after 180 minutes of competitive football is risky – with the former Roma man’s footwork, communication and positioning all impressive so far. The art of being a goalkeeper in this team is to do very little but do it very well.
Liverpool’s defensive record, generally, has been improving for months. They have not conceded a Premier League goal at Anfield since February 24 and will be seeking to extend that run against Brighton this weekend.
And with Alisson and Van Dijk on form, they’ll be expecting to do so. Welcome to the new Liverpool; expensive, stylish and solid. You get what you pay for, after all.
Liverpool’s win at home against Brighton & Hove Albion made City’s slip-up even more intriguing. Here was a team that beat Manchester United the weekend prior, but Jurgen Klopp’s side are not suffering the same yips against lower sides as they did last term.
The great signs for the Reds are they are not in full pomp, but they’re finding solutions. Meanwhile, even once their newly settled rearguard is breached, Alisson is truly living up to the hype.