Martin Keown talks up importance of Liverpool FC star

The Arsenal legend believes Liverpool FC missed Virgil van Dijk's forward-thinking passing in Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich

Virgil van Dijk (Photo: Sky Sports / YouTube)
Virgil van Dijk (Photo: Sky Sports / YouTube)

Martin Keown believes Liverpool FC missed Virgil van Dijk’s passing ability in Tuesday night’s goalless draw with Bayern Munich.

Van Dijk was forced to sit out the first leg of their last-16 clash as the Netherlands international served a one-game suspension.

Jurgen Klopp opted to start with Fabinho and Joel Matip at centre-half against Bayern’s attacking duo of Robert Lewandowski and James Rodriguez.

Liverpool FC managed to keep out Bayern and keep a vital clean sheet ahead of the return trip to Bavaria on Tuesday 5 March.

Their shutout was a respectable feat given that Klopp was without his first-choice centre-half pairing of Joe Gomez and Van Dijk.

Furthermore, Klopp’s preferred back-up centre-half Dejan Lovren is currently sidelined with an injury problem.

Former Arsenal defender Keown explained why Van Dijk’s absence had a big impact on Liverpool FC’s ability to build from the back.

“Everyone thought the absence of Virgil van Dijk would cost Liverpool defensively,” Keown told the Daily Mail.

“While the makeshift centre-half pairing of Joel Matip and Fabinho kept a clean sheet — no mean feat against Bayern Munich — they missed the Dutchman’s forward thinking.

“Positivity from the centre backs is crucial to the way Jurgen Klopp’s team play. Van Dijk and Joe Gomez — Liverpool’s first-choice pairing — are usually effortless in possession. They are always looking to play forwards to give the platform to build their attacks.

“That was not always the case on Tuesday night. Matip, in particular, panicked in possession. His most frequent pass in the first half was back to Alisson, finding his goalkeeper eight times. It prevented Liverpool from getting on the front foot and striking an early blow.”

Keown added: “It was understandable that Matip should be nervous on such a huge occasion but sometimes, the biggest mistake you can make is to be afraid to make one.

“Alisson saw plenty of the ball in those early stages but the time he dwelt on it was criminal. That put his team-mates under pressure, too.

“Van Dijk will return for next month’s second leg in Munich. Liverpool will need his attacking impetus as much as his Rolls-Royce defending. ”

Liverpool FC will take on bitter rivals Manchester United in their next Premier League game at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.

The Reds can move clear of Manchester City in the title race with a win or draw against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this weekend.

Van Dijk will return to the Liverpool FC team for the clash against the 20-time English champions.

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