A remarkable Liverpool statistic came to an end in October 2022 as the Reds fell to defeat to Leeds at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have struggled throughout the 2022/23 season so far, facing a battle to qualify for the UEFA Champions League after taking just 16 points from their opening 12 Premier League games.
Their old defensive steel seems to have evaporated, too. Injuries to the likes of Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate have limited Klopp’s potential centre-back partners for Virgil van Dijk, whose form has dropped off a cliff this term.
However, the Dutch defender’s influence on Liverpool can’t be underestimated, given they went on a brilliant unbeaten run at Anfield prior to the Leeds defeat.
With Van Dijk in their starting lineup, Liverpool went unbeaten for 70 Premier League games before their 2-1 loss to Leeds on 30 October 2022. The Reds won 59 of those matches, drawing the other 11 with no defeats.
After joining from Southampton in January 2018, Van Dijk actually lost his first Premier League appearance for Liverpool – a 1-0 defeat away at Swansea – but helped the Reds hold Tottenham to a 2-2 draw in his first club league appearance at Anfield.
His arrival helped accelerate Liverpool’s progress into one of the best teams in the world and they would go mightiliy close to pipping Manchester City to the 2018/19 title – being beaten to the trophy on the final day – before claiming the division by a distance in the Covid-affected 2019/20 campaign.
Van Dijk’s 2020/21 season was brought to an end in October when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the Merseyside derby. Liverpool’s form fluctuated without the Dutchman, surrendering the Premier League title and losing multiple games at Anfield but still finishing in the top four.
The Reds were back on form in 2021/22, again missing out on the title to City by a point, with their only league losses coming away from Anfield at West Ham and Leicester.
However, the following season saw Liverpool start slowly with too many draws and losses to Manchester United and Arsenal. A defeat at Nottingham Forest had put them under pressure to get a result at home against Leeds, but instead the hosts were poor as they gifted Rodrigo the opener before Crysencio Summerville netted the winner after Mohamed Salah’s equaliser.
Liverpool have enjoyed some memorable Champions League runs since Van Dijk joined the club. They have reached three finals, winning one against Tottenham in 2019 and losing the other two to Real Madrid.
Some storming performances at Anfield against the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona established Liverpool as a feared European heavyweight again.
They didn’t lose a home game in the Champions League with Van Dijk in their lineup until March 2020, Looking to overcome a 1-0 deficit from their first last-16 tie, Liverpool took Atletico Madrid to extra time where they were eventually beaten 3-2 thanks to Marcos Llorente’s brace and some hazardous Adrian goalkeeping.
The only other game the Reds have lost at Anfield in the Champions League with Van Dijk in the starting XI was the second leg of their last-16 clash with Inter, though they still secured a 2-1 aggregate success despite losing 1-0 on the night.
While Van Dijk scored on his debut in an FA Cup Merseyside derby tie at Anfield in 2018, Liverpool were beaten in the next round by West Brom 3-2 in an action-packed game.
Klopp rotates his side for cup competitions which means Van Dijk is often rested, but he played in the third round, fourth round, quarter finals, semi finals and final as Liverpool won the 2021/22 FA Cup.
He also played at the semi final and final stages of the Carabao Cup last season, with the Reds beating Chelsea on penalties at Wembley.
The Netherlands have enjoyed a resurgence over the past fear or so and go to the 2022 World Cup as one of the tournament favourites – Van Dijk will be pivotal to their chances.
Ronald Koeman’s side haven’t lost with Van Dijk in the team since a 1-0 friendly defeat to Mexico in 2020. However, he hasn’t always been fit in that time, notably missing the delayed Euro 2020 with his ACL problem.
He may look a little rudderless right now, but Van Dijk’s unbeaten run has helped him set a number of Premier League records. His 70 unbeaten games usurped Lee Sharpe’s previous haul of 55 for Manchester United.
With Van Dijk in the team, Liverpool have kept over 30 clean sheets and conceded just 48 in his 71 home league games, but his absence is strongly felt whenever injury strikes the former Celtic defender down.
Liverpool have lost six of the 18 home games in the Premier League without Van Dijk – those six defeats came consecutively during the 2020/21 season, when the Netherlands international was out with an ACL injury.