Liverpool: Pundit explains ‘problem’ preventing title ‘challenge’ amid ‘surprising’ Van Dijk revelation

Jason Soutar
Liverpool duo Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo during a game for the Netherlands.
Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo during a game for the Netherlands.

Club icon Steve Nicol thinks Liverpool are not “ready to be title contenders” because of their shoddy defence, singling out Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk has received some criticised this season after he received a red card in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Newcastle United, which consequently saw him lose his head and receive a further one-match ban for going ballistic at the match officials.

Doubts have surfaced over his ability after he returned to action following a serious knee injury sustained in October 2020, and that red card plus conceding a penalty during the international break has put the spotlight firmly on the Netherlands captain.

Speaking on ESPN‘s YouTube channel, former Liverpool right-back Nicol said he was asking the club’s supporters during a visit to the city what they thought of Van Dijk’s performances, and what he was told ‘surprised’ him.

“I was actually in Liverpool and I was asking everybody and anybody about Van Dijk because I don’t get the chance to go to the game and there is a huge advantage when you are at the game and you can see what one individual is doing,” he said.

“Pretty much everybody to a man is still worried about Virgil van Dijk.

“I know everybody jumps on the bandwagon of never being the same after an injury, especially a knee injury. But there is a genuine concern that he’s not going to get back to where he was, which I found surprising.”

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Nicol also discussed Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League this season with Jurgen Klopp’s side sitting pretty having picked up ten points from a possible 12 to start 2023/24.

Despite recruiting well in the forward areas with the additions of attacking midfielders Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, Nicol fears for the Reds defensively, which is why they will not take Manchester City’s crown away from them.

“I’m not in the camp that they are going to compete with City,” the ESPN pundit said.

“What we have seen already from Szoboszlai and Mac Allister, we know what we’re getting, so going forward everybody at Liverpool should be quite happy.

“One of the problems they have that we are not quite sure is going to be fixed is the back line.

“It doesn’t seem to give an awful lot of cover to Alisson in goal and when anybody gets at it, it gives up chances, it gives up shots.

“So far this season, not a lot of goals (conceded), but if you keep giving chances up then you’re going to start losing goals.

“Liverpool don’t want to do, they don’t want to have to be scoring three or four goals every week to win games, you are not winning anything doing that.

“For those reasons, that is why I don’t think they are quite yet ready to be title contenders.”

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