“They get paid enough and should get on with it,” is a common response, sympathy and empathy in short supply after another improbable performance that always calls for imaginative and deeper reasons for a dip in form. In Van Dijk’s case, many detailed explanations have been offered, with the accusation that he was “saving up for the World Cup” earlier in the season the most common.
Sometimes the obvious answer is right. Van Dijk clearly played too much football when he returned from a complicated knee injury, with his influence on the Liverpool team such that there was no time to rest. And as he admits today, he wouldn’t have been kind enough to stay out.
This is another fundamental problem for those managers who foresee injury risks but manage stars who understand the rationale for rotating the squad in hindsight, often too late as they recover from injury.
Even now, it’s extraordinary how often we see top-level strikers disgruntled in bed with their team comfortably ahead with 20 minutes to go, failing to appreciate how important it is to protect their ends for next week rather than add to the account of their goals. a game he has already won.
Go back two decades and it’s shocking to remember how often a manager ‘scrambling’ with his line-up made headlines as key players took the mess out of the team’s rotation policies. Read any interview with Michael Owen today and he freely admits that his peak was before the first hamstring tear, his powers were limited by playing a lot of football between the ages of 17-21. The same could be said of Robbie Fowler before his cruciate knee injury in 1998. But their teenage selves hated losing any game and would question the manager’s reasoning.
Van Dijk is not the only one to over-exercise, especially at Liverpool, and he has undoubtedly contributed to this shaky campaign. When writing the story of this season in the Premier League, it cannot be ignored how Arsenal have had a busy summer to get themselves fired up and out of the traps. The same can be said for Newcastle United. Those teams best equipped with the preparation time available to play a high-intensity game every week have excelled, while those who have done it every year – even Manchester City – are not held to the same standard every week.
Van Dijk’s comments do not change the fact that Liverpool need to make changes to the squad at the end of this season, nor does it soften the reality that given the data, the club should have been more prepared for the difficulties of previous seasons.
But they also hint at why Klopp is confident those senior players who survive his arrest will look rejuvenated in a year’s time. For him, they don’t need to be replaced. They just need a summer break.
(tags For Translation) Virgil van Dijk