THE VAN DIJK EFFECT: WHY RUBEN DIAS IS THE SIGNING OF THE SEASON
In the 2017/18 season Liverpool finished fourth despite having one of the best attacks in the league, the reason of course was their defence which had conceded 38 goals that year.
The next season they conceded just 22, finishing second with a point total that would have in a normal year won them the title.
The reason they conceded 16 less goals is notoriously down to one signing, Virgil van Dijk, who has now established himself as a true Premier League great after winning the title with Liverpool last year.
Now in 2021, history seems to be repeating itself, this time with Manchester City, who’s recruitment of Ruben Dias for £62 million has transformed their team.
The Citizens are top of the league, after conceding just 14 goals in the league all year, by far the best defensive record in the league.
This is a vast improvement on last season, where despite scoring over 100 goals, they finished 18 points behind Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola’s side were characterized by a shaky defence after failing to recruit a replacement for Vincent Kompany, with midfielder Fernandinho often drafted in at centre-half.
Not only did the side look dodgy at the back, but with Aymeric Laporte being injured so much and John Stones faltering, the side struggled to play the way Guardiola wanted, with the team having a slow transition from defence to attack.
Though overall their defensive record wasn’t bad, loses to Norwich, Southampton and Wolves (twice) cost them a chance at defending their title.
Cut back to today and they have 13 clean sheets in 22 League games, with smaller sides having little chance to score, let alone beat them.
Their last defeat was to Spurs, all the way back in November. City really do look unstoppable on their march to the title.
Manchester United in second place have scored more goals than City, but have conceded 16 more goals than Guardiola’s side, and have made 4 errors leading to goals, compared to City’s 1.
Liverpool have been just as bad, conceding 29 goals and making 6 errors leading to them.
The reason for City’s defensive turnaround isn’t just the ability of Dias, but the leadership and organisational skills he possesses.
He has gotten the most out of Stones, who has managed to revive his career with his partnership with Dias, with fellow countryman Joao Cancelo also playing much better next to his international teammate.
The difference between Manchester City and the rest of the league is their defence, and if their form continues and they manage to win the title, Dias will undoubtedly be considered the signing of the season.
As Sir Alex Ferguson once said, ‘Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles’.