Jaap Stam highlights area Virgil van Dijk can still improve – “He’s not doing that”

Virgil van Dijk has returned to the peak of his powers for the Reds this season, but a former Man United and AC Milan defender believes there is still scope to be better.

The Dutchman has made an impressive start to the 2023/24 season since being handed the captain’s armband by Jurgen Klopp this summer, with the Reds currently sitting at the top of the Premier League pile.

It appears that isn’t quite enough for some, however, with ex-defender Jaap Stam arguing that tweaks can still be made to the centre-back’s game.

“His positioning, I think at times he makes it difficult for himself. Sometimes he needs to chase when he doesn’t want to chase,” said Stam on the Stick To Football podcast.

“He is stepping up, trying to catch players offside but if his positioning is a bit better and he steps a bit more back, he can solve a lot of things for himself and for his teammates as well. So you don’t get done on transition on the counter.”

Van Dijk is no stranger to strange criticism from former Dutch professionals, with Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit giving damning reviews of the Liverpool No. 4 back in March.

Van Basten accused the defender of “creating chaos” while Gullit claimed that he was displaying levels of arrogance after the Netherlands suffered a crushing 4-0 defeat to France eight months ago.

Stam did, however, name Van Dijk as his ‘dream’ centre-back partner from the Premier League era, but added that his “communication” skills could be enhanced.

“The feeling is communication, he is not doing enough,” he continued.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 9, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates with team-mate captain Virgil van Dijk after scoring the first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“His leadership on the pitch, he needs to do more, especially when the team is not playing well.

“He needs to be the one to tell the players what to do and put them in positions to make a difference. They say he’s not doing that.”

Jamie Carragher, a huge self-proclaimed fan of Van Dijk’s, asked Stam to elaborate on those comments, on which he then backtracked somewhat.

Stam added: “Sometimes you are looking at a defender and seeing what he is doing and I think he is trying to. I don’t know if it’s fair to be honest. He’s of a certain age, if you can talk about improvement, certain things he can improve or do differently.”