‘Sometimes Trent’s got into terrible positions but it doesn’t matter with Van Dijk’: Ex-Liverpool defender Glen Johnson warns Dutchman’s absence could stop full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson joining Jurgen Klopp’s free-flowing attack
- Virgil Van Dijk’s injury will change how Liverpool set-up, claims Glen Johnson
- Full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson could be reined in
- Ex-Reds defender Johnson says Van Dijk’s covering skills will be hugely missed
- Johnson is backing Fabinho to fill the massive void left by Van Dijk’s absence
Virgil Van Dijk’s long-term injury lay-off could force Liverpool to rein in their marauding fullbacks, according to former Reds defender Glen Johnson.
Holland centre-half Van Dijk has been told he needs surgery following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury sustained after an ugly challenge by Jordan Pickford in the 2-2 Merseyside derby draw at Everton on Saturday.
The club hope the Reds’ inspirational defender will be able to play again this season, but Johnson reckons his absence could mean a more restrictive role for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, whose swashbuckling attacks down both flanks have played a huge part in the team’s success in recent years.
Scotland left back Andy Robertson is key offensive weapon for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp
England right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has 27 assists in his 98 appearances to date
Johnson, who made 200 appearances for Liverpool between 2009–2015 and also spent four years at Chelsea, warned that without the safety net of Van Dijk’s covering skills it will be harder for Liverpool to deploy their two flying internationals in the same destructive manner.
The 36-year-old told the Mirror: ‘There’s nothing better as an attacking full-back to think, “Oh actually, I don’t need to run back because I know that Van Dijk is there, or (former Chelsea defender) John Terry is there”.
‘You just know they’re going to win the ball.
‘If you look over your shoulder and it’s somebody else then you don’t get that confidence, and then you have to be in totally different positions.
Glen Johnson says Liverpool’s full backs may need to be restricted in Virgil Van Dijk’s absence
‘We’ve seen it over the years with Trent. Sometimes defensively he’s got into some terrible positions, but it doesn’t matter because Van Dijk will be mopping up behind and making it all look very easy.
‘Both full-backs will have to change.’
Former England defender Johnson believes it will be tough to replace 29-year-old Van Dijk’s calming presence at the back but suggested Fabinho could be an able replacement.
‘[Van Dijk] is the number one player Liverpool certainly didn’t want to lose,’ said Johnson.
Van Dijk is set to be sidelined for at least six months and potentially for the rest of the season
‘He’s one of those players that everyone performs better when he’s out there, there’s no two ways about it, he’ll be missed.’
But on Brazilian Fabinho, he added: ‘We saw him do it a couple of weeks ago and he was man of the match, so he could be the one who slots in.
‘As long as he can maintain that sort of level then I don’t think it will be too much of an issue.
‘You need players at the back who can set the game up, and I think Fabinho can certainly do that, because obviously he’s very good on the ball and used to playing in midfield.
‘Of course they’d much rather be going into games with Van Dijk, but I do think Fabinho can step in.’