Virgil van Dijk: Liverpool’s inconsistent season has been a real eye-opener
Wildy indifferent results – they have beaten Manchester United 7-0 and Bournemouth 9-0 yet also lost to the Cherries as well as fellow strugglers Leeds and Nottingham Forest – have left Jurgen Klopp’s side facing an uphill task to qualify for the Champions League.
Winning that competition in 2019, the year before the club ended a 30-year wait for a domestic title, is among many highlights of a sustained period of success since Klopp arrived in 2015.
And while the chaotic 3-2 win at home to Forest added momentum to their quest to sneak into the top four Van Dijk admits the current campaign’s tougher times have had an eye-opening effect.
“We are very privileged. We’re going out there, performing for one of the biggest clubs in the world,” said the Netherlands captain, who admits the current four-match unbeaten run has allowed them to start enjoying their football again.
“This season at times you maybe have to remind yourself that we’re really blessed.
“Everyone wants to win, no-one wants to make mistakes and lose. We have been very successful over the years.
“We just need to find that joy. I’m certainly happy and buzzing to be out there, trying to get good results to put a run together.”
The win over Forest made it back-to-back wins in a week after two successive draws and while it was less straightforward than Monday’s 6-1 hammering of Leeds it has helped maintain the pressure on Newcastle and Tottenham, their two main rivals for fourth place.
However, they are going to have to defend a whole lot better than they did in allowing Neco Williams and Morgan Gibbs-White to twice equalise Diogo Jota’s double for the second match in a row.
They were ultimately indebted to Mohamed Salah for the winner, his 183rd goal for the club moving him level with Robbie Fowler in joint-sixth on the club’s all-time goalscorers list.
Salah’s goals, however, have come in 71 fewer matches despite the Egypt international not being classed as an out-and-out striker.
Van Dijk believes his team-mate has already cemented his place as one of Liverpool’s all-time greats.
“Most of the players here have contributed to winning big trophies. Mo will definitely be seen as a legend. He’s such an important player,” added the Dutchman.
“At a later stage, I think the things he’s done will be appreciated a lot more by the outside world.
“For us, we appreciate everything he does day in, day out. We see all the hard work that he puts in. He just has to keep it going.”
The result dropped Forest to second-bottom in the table and for the visit of high-flying Brighton to visit on Wednesday they are likely to be without Scott McKenna who was forced off with a suspected collarbone injury.
They are now win-less in 11 matches and have conceded two or more goals in nine of those games and manager Steve Cooper accepts a particular flaw at set-pieces has to be addressed after all three Liverpool goals via that route.
“Nothing is really solved straight away in the dressing room. We will pick it up more in the week. It was always going to be a big week,” he said.
“Getting something from Anfield you have to do everything absolutely right and what we didn’t do right was the set-pieces.
“We have done some decent things in the game to give us something to cling on to. We have to use the frustration and disappointment of keep conceding set-pieces into motivation for Wednesday.”