EPL

'It's important we back him' – Van Dijk defends Alexander-Arnold

By Sports Desk October 05, 2022

Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk has leapt to the defence of team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold amid recent criticism of the right-back's performances.

Alexander-Arnold has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny following his poor defensive performances in the Premier League and Champions League. 

The defender's mistakes in Liverpool's 3-3 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, in particular, drew heavy criticism from fans and pundits. 

The 23-year-old also failed to feature in either of England's two Nations League games last week, with Gareth Southgate making it clear Alexander-Arnold is not his first-choice right-back.

But van Dijk, speaking after Liverpool's 2-0 win against Rangers on Tuesday in which Alexander-Arnold opened the scoring with a stunning free-kick, said: "We know the quality he has and he showed it again today.

"He has been showing it over the last couple of years; he has developed as one of the best right-backs in the country."

Netherlands international Van Dijk also questioned the culture surrounding player welfare and media scrutiny in English football.

He said: "I've been in the UK now for eight, nine years and everyone here is very good to praise a player very high up to the sky and let them fall as hard as they can.

"That's what we, as players, have to deal with. Everyone is talking about how we should accept it.

"For him to just carry on working – not only him but other players as well – deal with it and show reaction today is what we need, all of us. I think it's important that we back him."

Liverpool's victory against Rangers leaves them second in Group A behind Napoli, who beat Jurgen Klopp's men 4-1 in the opening group game. 

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    Virgil van Dijk said Manchester United are not "at the same level" as Real Madrid as he offered transfer advice to his in-form Netherlands team-mate Cody Gakpo.

    PSV forward Gakpo scored in each of the Netherlands' three group-stage games and played alongside Van Dijk as the Dutch defeated the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

    With nine goals in 14 Eredivisie games this season, Gakpo's stock has continued to rise in Qatar and rumours of a switch to United have exacerbated since the Red Devils terminated the contract of Cristiano Ronaldo.

    LaLiga heavyweights Madrid have also been registered with an interest, while Liverpool are also reportedly monitoring the situation.

    Van Dijk has no doubt Gakpo is ready to take the next step in his career but offered a cheeky dig at Liverpool's rivals when speaking to reporters after the USA game.

    "Are Manchester United and Real Madrid on the same level? No disrespect, not at all," he said.

    "I definitely think he has that next step in him. I definitely feel like it could happen, whether that is in the winter or the summer or next year, time will tell. 

    "He is a great boy who works hard, very talented and definitely there is more in him. We are so pleased he is doing so well for us. Long may it continue."

    Gakpo did little to quell rumours of a January move when speaking to De Telegraaf about his future last week.

    "As it stands now, I will still be playing for PSV after the winter break," he said. "But, as I said before the start of the World Cup, we will see what will happen."

  • Kane will 'come alive' for England against Senegal, says Rooney Kane will 'come alive' for England against Senegal, says Rooney

    Wayne Rooney has backed Harry Kane to end his World Cup goalscoring drought and "come alive" in England's last-16 clash with Senegal.

    Captain Kane has yet to find the net at the finals, though he has provided three assists for Gareth Southgate's side.

    Kane won the golden boot at the 2018 World Cup with six goals and Rooney expects the pressure of the knockout stages to inspire a return to that kind of form.

    "Harry Kane is made for these games," England's record goalscorer wrote in his column in The Times. 

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    "He hasn't scored in the tournament yet but I think there will be a shift in his mindset. He'll think, 'right, it's on me now to make sure we progress', and I think this is when he'll come alive.

    "Gareth's other forwards are talented but no one has Harry's consistency. He is always calm and composed and he doesn't let misses bother him.

    "Failing to score in the group stage won't affect him like at Euro 2016, where you could see frustration. I reckon this will be more like Euro 2020 when we had similar conversations about his lack of goals in the group stage – and then he started scoring."

    Rooney anticipates changes to the starting XI from the 3-0 win over Wales, but would stick with both Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford in the front three.

    "It wouldn't surprise me if Gareth brought back Sterling or Bukayo Saka, and maybe even both," the DC United manager added.

    "I think he will leave either Foden or Marcus Rashford out and will be keen to use Sterling because he knows and trusts Raheem more than any of the other wide forwards.

    "Me? I would stick with the side that beat Wales and keep Rashford and Foden. Foden gives you better control and helps you a lot more and you could see Rashford's confidence grow after his goals against the Welsh. Confidence is key with him."

  • Van Dijk confident Liverpool will thrive regardless of who owns the club Van Dijk confident Liverpool will thrive regardless of who owns the club

    Virgil van Dijk has complete confidence Liverpool will remain a force in world football regardless of who owns the Reds.

    It was confirmed last month the club's Fenway Sports Group (FSG) are exploring the possibility of selling up or seeking outside investment as they aim to keep up with the Premier League's big spenders.

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    Van Dijk, speaking to reporters after helping the Netherlands defeat the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, says Liverpool will continue to thrive whoever is in charge at Anfield.

    "I have full trust in Liverpool that they will be fine. We are a very established club, one of the biggest in the world and that will stay that way," he said.

    "Whoever comes in to fill in those roles, they will do very well. I am aware of everything that is happening.

    "Whether I am taking it in and doing something with it right now, I don't think so because the full focus is on the World Cup but hopefully everything will be sorted and clarified when I am back. At this point, I am definitely not thinking about it."

    Liverpool struggled for consistency prior to the World Cup and sit sixth in the Premier League, 15 points off leaders Arsenal and seven back of Spurs in fourth.

    They did win five of their six Champions League group-stage games but finished second behind Napoli on goal difference and face Real Madrid in the last 16 in a repeat of last season's final, which they lost 1-0.

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