Virgil van Dijk pipped Raheem Sterling to win the PFA Player of the Year award for 2019 (h/t BBC). This is a prestigious achievement for the Liverpool centre-back, as the voting is done by the players he plays with/against on a weekly basis.
Hence, in a way, the Dutchman has deserved to be recognised as the best player in the league this season.
This is the first time since 2005 that a centre-back has claimed this accolade ahead of goalscorers. John Terry was the previous one to achieve that in 2005. This further reiterates the fact van Dijk has been simply too good this season.
When Liverpool signed the Dutch captain in January 2018 for £75m (h/t BBC), everyone expected him to come good. But the performance level has been close to elite from week one, which is fantastic, to say the least.
Below, we analyse his performance in the league this season and use some stats to back the facts up:
The first and the major aspect of van Dijk’s game is his ability to read the danger and snuff that out before it becomes dangerous for his team. Hence, we don’t often see him making sliding tackles left, right and centre to compensate for the error in judgement.
The Dutchman’s ability in the air is second to none. Standing at around 6.5ft, he wins aerial duels at an average of over four per game (152 in 36 league appearances).
Furthermore, since van Dijk reads the game and prefers to defend by staying on his feet, his ball recovery rate and duels won on the ground is pretty high.
He has made 170 ball recoveries for the team while winning ground duels with an attacker over 75% of the time.
The centre-back isn’t too shabby while passing the ball from the back and spraying those diagonals to the fullback. He has delivered 189 accurate long balls this season and is highly precise in ground passing as well (Stats – Premier League).
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All the facts and numbers do suggest that Virgil van Dijk has had a special season at the back for Liverpool. His leadership qualities have helped other defenders around, which in turn, is aiding the team big time in challenging for the major honours.
Hence, it is not a surprise to see the Dutchman win the PFA Player of the Year Award. In fact, he thoroughly deserves it.
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