The international break is back and that means we are looking for our FLIP Sports fix wherever we can find it. If you want a boost over your fantasy opponents, seriously consider giving Southampton’s central defender Virgil Van Dijk a run in your team. We take an in-depth look at one of the form players in the league.
Signed from Celtic in the summer for a sweet £13 million, Van Dijk was brought in after Toby Alderweireld was abducted in the middle of the night by Spurs and held captive at White Hart Lane until he joined. The Belgian ex-loanee has been exceptional for the North Londoners—but Van Dijk has been an entirely worthy replacement. He claims he has learned more playing for Southampton in a handful of games than two seasons at Celtic, both a damning indictment of Scottish football and a sign of how quickly he has adapted to Premier League football. He has been declared MotM three times since joining the Saints, no mean feat in such an accomplished team.
Southampton’s defence was one of the meanest in the league last season, and although they have conceded 13 goals so far the defenders have been playing well. So what has Van Dijk been doing right? His stats speak for themselves—he makes on average 8 clearances and 3 interceptions per match, a sign he is adept at reading a situation and making sure he is in the right place at the right time. He is also great in the air, winning almost 6 aerial battles each match. Against some of the more burly Premier League attackers Van Dijk stands tall and acts as a rock in central defence. The likes of Benteke, Rondon, Costa and Lukaku could all find chances hard to come by when facing the strong Dutchman.
Van Dijk makes less than two tackles per game though, a hint that he is perhaps uncomfortable facing attackers with trickery and pace. With a match against Manchester City on the horizon after Stoke, Van Dijk may struggle against Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas who are both exceptionally fast, skilful players.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at the Dutchman’s success though—it was only a matter of time before one of the Premier League clubs took him on, and he was regularly linked in the papers with Arsenal before making the switch to Southampton. Classy central defenders are not easy to recruit—Liverpool and Tottenham have both signed duds in recent years with Dejan Lovren and Federico Fazio both failing to reproduce their better form from previous clubs. Should Virgil van Dijk continue in this vein it is easy to imagine Chelsea or Manchester United trying to unsettle him in the summer with a view to signing him.
Get him in your fantasy teams, you won’t regret it.