DATA DEPENDENT: Liverpool have missed Virgil van Dijk’s offensive passing.

After a full season of uneven and uncertain performances, Liverpool FC has put in a pair of confident performances to start the 2021-2022 season. Their first match was away against Norwich followed by a match at home against Burnley. Sporting a somewhat different lineup compared with last season, it was pretty obvious that the return of Virgil van Dijk has made a big difference. Defensively, he’s been solid as ever. However, what really missed was van Dijk’s ball distribution.

Against Norwich, van Dijk had 93 touches and completed 79 of 85 passes (92.9%). More importantly, he passed for 1876 yards and had a progressive distance (PrgDist) of 649 yards. PrgDist is defined as the total distance, in yards, that completed passes have traveled towards the opponent’s goal.

Against Burnley, van Dijk completed 34 of 40 passes. While he passed for less total yardage (822 yards) and PrgDist (242) he made a key pass that eventually led to a goal.

Watching Liverpool play with van Dijk in the lineup vs without him is like night and day. The team’s offensive flow is much better and less dependent on going down the wings. At times last season, Jurgen Klopp’s offense seemed to consist of one thing: running down the sides and heaving in a cross. While Fabinho did his best and performed admirably during his 17 appearances and 1530 mins as a central defender, his total passing output was roughly 14,000 yards.

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We’ve assembled van Dijk’s passing numbers and juxtaposed them with his peers.

A look at Virgil van Dijk’s progressive passing during the season Liverpool won the Champions League and nearly won the league (2019) shows that he out-passed almost all of his peers with the sole exception of Aymeric Laporte. This shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise considering Laporte played in a pass and possession-heavy Pep Guardiola offense.


Virgil van DijkLiverpool62,10817,429144179
Gerard PiqueBarcelona46,35214,391103156
Sergio RamosReal Madrid35,47414,04391176
Milan SkriniarInter Milan43,95715,225130129
John StonesManchester City34.220944587111
Raphael VaraneReal Madrid33,74796335783
Harry MaguireLeicester City35,39911,761142177
Aymeric LaporteManchester City58,98619,301238316
MarquinhosParis Saint-Germain42,66714,004144174
Ruben Diasn/an/an/a n/a n/a

The following season, Liverpool won the league and saw Virgil van Dijk surpass the previous year’s effort. In 2020, nobody came close to him.


Virgil van DijkLiverpool65,37618,443154227
Gerard PiqueBarcelona53,75214,795116192
Sergio RamosReal Madrid38,95714,729100147
Milan SkriniarInter Milan36,43612,404129139
John StonesMancherster City21,07159285481
Raphael VaraneReal Madrid35,09810,0345083
Harry MaguireManchester United46,93411,79098167
Aymeric LaporteManchester City22,480678478108
MarquinhosParis Saint-Germain24,188682583105
Ruben Dias n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a

Last season, van Dijk was out for most of the season thanks to Everton’s Jordan Pickford. Liverpool struggled without his offensive output.


Virgil van DijkLiverpool707821092026
Gerard PiqueBarcelona24,74360693582
Sergio RamosReal Madrid44,81915,383115174
Milan SkriniarInter Milan39,13111,303122131
John StonesManchester City31,552799275113
Raphael VaraneReal Madrid36,253986786103
Harry MaguireManchester United42,64712,352104194
Aymeric LaporteManchester City24,147696372108
MarquinhosParis Saint-Germain33,39810,63089148
Ruben DiasManchester CIty54,26514,607116166

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