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Virgil van Dijk leads the way as Liverpool stats show incredible 2nd-half turnaround

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Liverpool once again came from behind to win in the Premier League, with the difference between the first and second half most noticeable in one key area.

Wednesday night came and Liverpool were without 11 players, forcing Jurgen Klopp to field a makeshift side.

Thankfully, the Reds came good in the second half and put Luton to the sword, scoring through Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott.

This meant Klopp could give some game time to Liverpool’s youngsters, including a debut for Jayden Danns.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 21, 2024: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott celebrates with team-mate Jaden Danns (R) after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Luton Town FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 18-year-old’s late introduction meant that, for the first time in Liverpool’s history, “they had seven players aged 21 or younger play in the same league game,” Opta’s Michael Reid wrote on X.

The victory means that Klopp has now beaten every team he has faced in the Premier League as Liverpool manager.

 

First-half struggles

Much was made of Liverpool’s first-half woes, but if you take away their blunt manner in the final third, the rest of the performance was actually OK.

As you can see in Fotmob’s first-half stats breakdown, Liverpool were on top for the majority of the half, and conceded just the one big chance, Chiedozie Ogbene’s goal.

It was the Reds’ final pass and decision-making that let them down before the break. This often included wayward shots from distance.

As you can see in the graphic below, the areas that Liverpool were shooting from were much closer to goal in the second period.

 

A captain’s performance

At the heart of Liverpool’s comeback was captain Van Dijk, and not just in a defensive sense.

The Dutchman kept calm to bury a header past Luton goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski, when none of his teammates had yet managed to. It was from then on that the Reds’ forwards started playing with more confidence in around the box.

The goal was Van Dijk’s 18th in the Premier League since the beginning of the 2018/19 season – Opta report that’s four more than any other defender in that time.

Of course, Van Dijk’s main work was done at the back, producing seven clearances and winning all seven of his aerial duels.

In fact, that means the Dutchman has won all 21 of his aerial battles since the Reds’ home win over Chelsea on January 31.

His leadership and performances have been key to Liverpool’s renaissance this season, and he is carrying over the ‘mentality monsters’ attitude from previous years.

Such is Liverpool’s mental strength on the pitch, Squawka report they “have won 22 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, the joint-most they have ever managed in a single campaign (22 in 2008/09).”

Also, Andrew Beasley remarked on X that “Liverpool have scored four second-half goals for the third time in seven league games.

“They’ve never done it more than three times in a Premier League season.”

Liverpool need all of that willpower going into Sunday’s League Cup final against Chelsea, a match that could go to extra time and penalties.


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