Virgil van Dijk reached another milestone during Liverpool’s stunning 4-0 victory over Leicester City at the King Power on Boxing Day with the occasion marking his 70th Premier League outing for the club.
Although Trent Alexander-Arnold rightly stole the headlines for his virtuoso attacking display from right-back, Van Dijk enjoyed another productive evening as he successively nullified the threat of Premier League golden boot frontrunner, Jamie Vardy.
Vardy has spearheaded one of the best-attacking teams in the division this season, but neither he nor the likes of James Maddison or Harvey Barnes could make much headway against Liverpool’s defenders, including the towering No.4.
Indeed, no Leicester player was able to successfully dribble past Van Dijk, meaning the Dutchman has only been beaten in such one-on-one duels four times during his first 70 league games for the Reds.
The four players to successfully dribble past Virgil Van Dijk are…
- Mikel Merino (Newcastle United) – 03/03/2018
- Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal) – 24/08/2019
- Jay Rodriguez (Burnley) – 31/08/2019
- Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) – 10/11/2019
Former Newcastle United midfielder Mikel Merino was the first Premier League player to dribble past Van Dijk in a Liverpool shirt, doing so a few months into the Dutchman’s spell at Anfield in what was his fifth league outing.
That was the one and only time that Van Dijk was dribbled past during the second half of the 2017-18 Premier League campaign and he memorably went the entire 2018-19 season without anyone getting the better of him, despite featuring in every single game.
Following a run of 49 Premier League games without being beaten by Opta’s ‘dribble’ definition, Van Dijk eventually succumbed to Nicolas Pépé during Liverpool’s 3-1 victory against Arsenal in August.
Somewhat surprisingly, Van Dijk was then dribbled past exactly a week later, this time by Jay Rodriguez of Burnley during Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Turf Moor, a match made memorable for Sadio Mane’s furious outburst towards Mohamed Salah after choosing not to pass.
Bernardo Silva became the third Premier League player to take the ball past Van Dijk this season but again the Dutchman had the last laugh as Liverpool won the top-of-the-table clash against the reigning champions 3-1 at Anfield.
As you’d expect considering Van Dijk’s defensive exploits on Merseyside, he boasts a formidable duel success rate over the past couple of years, winning 465/622 contested for an overall 74.8%.
The definition of a duel from Opta is as follows: ‘A duel is a 50-50 contest between two players of opposing sides in the match. For every Duel Won, there is a corresponding Duel Lost depending on the outcome of the contest.’
Duels that can be won or lost by outfield players include aerial challenges, take ons/dribbles, tackles and fouls, and Van Dijk’s overall success rate suggests that he is equally dominant in the air as he is on the ground.
Despite only having joined Liverpool this time two years ago, Van Dijk is already being spoken of as a club legend in the making having helped the club win a sixth Champions League title and winning the PFA Player of the Year award for his efforts last season.
Looking at the statistics (and the 13-point lead he’s helped establish for Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table) it isn’t too hard to see why he is so universally adored at Anfield.