With only a handful of games to go before the 2019-20 Premier League season ends, the discussion about which player will be awarded the prestigious PFA Player of the Year award is beginning to heat up.The current favourite with the bookies is Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson – who looks set to lift the Premier League title with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds – but other contenders include Henderson’s teammates Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, as well as Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
Another strong contender? The current holder of the award, Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. And while only 5 players have won two PFA Player of the Year awards – with only Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo winning them back-to-back – here are 3 reasons why the Dutchman should retain his crown.
#1 It’s got to be a Liverpool player – and Van Dijk has been their key man
If we’re really frank, the PFA Player of the Year basically has to come from Liverpool; Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could wrap up the Premier League title as early as April 5th and have clearly been the best team in the competition during this season by a country mile. Sure, the likes of De Bruyne and Vardy have been good, but it’d be insulting to see anyone not wearing that famous red shirt to win an award like this.
So why should Van Dijk take the glory ahead of his teammates, tremendous performers like Henderson, Salah and Mane? The truth is that more than any of the afore-mentioned players, Van Dijk has been the Reds’ key man this season. Henderson is the team’s metaphorical heartbeat while Salah and Mane have provided most of the goals, but where would Klopp’s men be without the Dutch defender?
It’s a question we simply don’t know the answer to, because Liverpool haven’t been without Van Dijk for a single second this season. He’s the only player to complete every single minute of all 29 of Liverpool’s Premier League fixtures – and he also hasn’t missed a single minute in the Champions League, either. If that doesn’t demonstrate how important the Dutchman is to the Reds’ cause, then what can?
#2 Liverpool’s success has been built on their tight defence – and that’s down to Van Dijk
Liverpool currently sit at the top of the Premier League, and as of the time of writing they’re a ridiculous 25 points ahead of their nearest rivals Manchester City. It should therefore come as no surprise that they’ve also got the best goal difference in the league with +45 – but interestingly enough, they haven’t scored the most goals, with that statistic going to City, who have scored 2 more than them.
What does that point to? It suggests that the primary reason for Liverpool’s success this season hasn’t come from their scintillating attack – as great as it is – but it’s actually come from their rock-solid defence. Sure enough, the Reds have only conceded 21 goals during the current campaign, 8 less than City and comfortably the least in the Premier League as a whole.
And of course, Van Dijk has been the key to that defensive strength. First-choice goalkeeper Alisson has missed 9 games, while Van Dijk’s central partner has been changed on numerous occasions from Joe Gomez to either Joel Matip or Dejan Lovren. The Dutchman has been the only constant, meaning he’s been the only player in the side to be involved with all 12 of Liverpool’s clean sheets.
Liverpool are going to win the league, there can be no doubt of that – and if their defence is indeed the key to their success, surely Van Dijk must be considered Player of the Year.
#3 No other player is as important to their side’s cause as Van Dijk is to Liverpool's
Even encompassing the other contenders for the PFA Player of the Year award – all of Liverpool’s stars plus the likes of De Bruyne and Vardy – the one man who stands out as being more important to his team’s cause as any other is still Van Dijk.
Since joining Liverpool in January 2018, the Reds have essentially never been without him; he played in all 38 of their league games last season, putting together some phenomenal defensive statistics while also scoring 4 goals and registering 2 assists, and this season looks to be no different – he has yet to miss a single minute of action and has also scored another 4 goals.
In comparison meanwhile, his teammates Henderson and Mane have both missed games – either picking up injuries or being given a rest by Klopp – and while De Bruyne has barely missed a game for Manchester City this season, Pep Guardiola’s side showed in the previous campaign that they can handle life perfectly well without the Belgian attacker.
You only have to cast your mind back to how woeful Liverpool’s defence looked prior to the arrival of the Dutchman in 2018 to be reminded of his importance; simply put, no other player makes the kind of difference to his team that Van Dijk does, and so nobody deserves the Player of the Year award more than him.Published 07 Mar 2020, 23:20 IST