Arsene Wenger hits nail on head with Van Dijk injury domino effect

Arsene Wenger has hit the nail on the head as he explained the domino effect Liverpool have found themselves at the end of following the long-term injury loss of Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutchman has been a pillar at the back since his arrival in early 2018, helping to transform Liverpool from nearly men into champions of Europe and England.

And as such, his long-term absence with a knee injury left a gaping hole in the Reds’ defence which was then compounded by Joe Gomez‘s lengthy layoff and later Joel Matip‘s absence.

To make up numbers, Jurgen Klopp has called on Jordan Henderson and Fabinho at the back and as a result, has taken two mainstays away from midfield to further unsettle the side.

Consistency has taken a hit and accumulative fatigue has taken its toll, not to mention the playing style has undergone a forced tweak.

This is what Wenger touched on following Liverpool’s defeat at Leicester, with the Reds’ trademark “winning the ball high” not as prevalent since Van Dijk’s injury due to the shift in personnel across the pitch.

“One of the main reasons was that they lost Van Dijk and what was their strength is winning the ball high with Henderson and [James] Milner in midfield, and by moving Henderson back they lost that as well,” the Frenchman told beIN SPORTS.

“I just try to find some logical explanation because Liverpool were very efficient because the time on the ball for the opponent was short.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 13, 2021: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson looks dejected after Leicester City score the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. Leicester City won 3-1. (Pic by Propaganda)

“By changing their structure they gave a bit more time to their opponent. They won the ball higher up before and could quickly feed their strikers.

“That was the main reason for their success and, of course, good defensive stability and they lost a bit of all that.”

The former Arsenal boss explained what many have overlooked when analysing Liverpool this season that the absence of the No. 4, in addition to other “vital players,” has forced a change in playing style.

A high-line has not been able to be utilised regularly or with efficiency, while key passing lanes have closed to take another string away from Liverpool’s attacking bow.

“When you’re from outside you see many reasons. When you’re from inside you have to find the main reason,” he continued.

“There’s always a knot there that you do not necessarily see from the outside that creates the problem.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“One of the main problems they have had is they lost vital players. If you take the results before and after Van Dijk at Liverpool, you see already there is a difference but I agree it is not the only difference.

“I believe you’re always in trouble in a big club as a manager when there’s a big difference between your target and where you are at the moment.”

It’s a brilliant assessment of Liverpool’s woes from Wenger in what has been a season defined by the perfect storm of problems.