Paul Merson: Liverpool FC need Virgil van Dijk more than 25-year-old attacker

The Arsenal legend believes Virgil van Dijk will be more important to Liverpool FC than Philippe Coutinho

Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho Photo: The Sport Review

Paul Merson believes Virgil van Dijk will have a more important role than Philippe Coutinho to play in Liverpool FC’s title challenge in coming seasons.

The Reds signed Van Dijk in a club record £75m deal from Premier League rivals Southampton on Wednesday evening to make the 26-year-old the world’s most expensive defender.

The Dutch centre-half will be tasked with improving Liverpool’s defence that has conceded 24 times in their opening 21 games in the Premier League.

Coutinho, on the other hand, has netted 13 goals and has made seven assists in 31 appearances in the Premier League to secure a top-four spot last term.

The Brazil international has been at Anfield for four seasons but Liverpool FC have only come close to winning the title once during his spell at the Merseyside club.

Former Arsenal midfielder Merson believes Van Dijk will become more important to Liverpool FC than Coutinho despite the Brazilian’s undoubted brilliance.

“At the start of the season I said Liverpool needed Van Dijk more than they needed Coutinho and getting him would make them title contenders,” Merson told the Daily Star.

“But things have changed. Liverpool need Van Dijk. But they need more than that now. City have been so good the bar has been raised for everyone.”

Merson added: “Teams sit off them now and get numbers back, so they sometimes struggle to break you down. They will be better at the back with Van Dijk.

“But it won’t be enough to challenge Manchester City.”

Liverpool FC were 2-1 winners against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in their last Premier League game in 2017 thanks to Mohamed Salah’s two goals in the second half at Anfield.

The Reds are unbeaten in their last 12 games in the Premier League in the current campaign.

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