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Liverpool

Steven Gerrard says Liverpool’s European hopes rest on Virgil van Dijk – is he correct?

Rob Meech

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Van Dijk

Liverpool‘s pursuit of Virgil van Dijk appeared to end back in June, when Southampton accused the Anfield club of ‘tapping up’ their talismanic defender. However, club legend Steven Gerrard has urged manager Jurgen Klopp to revive his interest in the want-away Dutchman, who handed in a transfer request earlier this month.

Gerrard, who made more than 500 appearances for Liverpool in a distinguished career, believes signing van Dijk is essential if the Reds are to challenge for honours. When asked about the Saints player on BT Sport, and as quoted in the Liverpool Echo, Gerrard said: “For me, if you want to compete in the Champions League (van Dijk is needed). It’s been well documented that we need two or three signings in.”

Liverpool have made three additions this summer, with Andrew Robertson and Dominic Solanke following the high-profile capture of Mohamed Salah from Roma. Many Liverpool supporters will be desperate for the transfer window to close so the ‘will he, won’t he’ saga involving Philippe Coutinho can be put to bed.

The club’s owners, FSG, have repeatedly stated Coutinho is not for sale, amid strong interest from Barcelona. However, holding on to their play maker may not be enough for Liverpool to remain a force, with Gerrard of the opinion that Klopp needs to do more business before the end of August.

Central defence has been an area of concern since Klopp arrived at Anfield nearly two years ago. Although last season showed a marked improvement, Liverpool still conceded 42 goals en route to finishing fourth in the Premier League. The opening-day 3-3 draw with Watford did nothing to suggest that they have enough quality at the back to compete both domestically and in the Champions League this campaign.

Van Dijk joined Southampton from Celtic for a bargain £13 million in 2015 and has grown into one of the most sought-after central defenders in Europe. Now a fully-fledged Dutch international, it is no surprise that he has been linked with a number of top clubs. Van Dijk is as comfortable on the ball as he is without it and, importantly, he possesses leadership qualities.

An authoritative voice at the back is something Liverpool have lacked in recent years. Competition for silverware is only going to increase this season in light of the astronomical summer spending. Gerrard is right; van Dijk could be the difference for the Reds. However, time is rapidly running out for Klopp to make this happen.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Arsenal

Fans criticise Jack Wilshere omission after Jordan Henderson’s ‘toothless’ England performance

Gareth Southgate’s bold decision is already being questioned.

Jamie Watts

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England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time winner ensured England started the tournament with a victory, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of the points in Volgograd.

After a promising opening 20 minutes, England’s shortcomings in front of goal were punished as Tunisia were awarded a penalty – using VAR – and Ferjani Sassi equalised from the spot, heaping pressure on Gareth Southgate’s outfit to score a second.

But creativity was scarce from the Three Lions, in what was a stressful and frustrating half to watch for the nation.

Photo: Getty Images

And Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson has come under fire for his performance in the heart of the midfield, with many believing that Arsenal‘s Jack Wilshere would have been more creative and imaginative in central midfield, if he wasn’t omitted from international duties this earlier this summer.

Henderson frequently opted for possession over creativity and was guilty of taking too many touches in the midfield yesterday, particularly in the second half and the speed of play was directly affected as a result.

Here’s the Twitter reaction:

By no means did the 28-year-old have an awful game, but his choice of pass was often safe and as a result England lacked impetus and drive in the second-half, until the additions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added a spark in the final third.

Gareth Southgate will often opt for control in central midfield against tougher opposition – with Belgium on the horizon – but against the likes of Tunisia and Panama, the side can afford to take more risks and be more inventive, and the decision to leave Wilshere at home is already being questioned after just one game.

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Liverpool

Gary Neville warns against Liverpool landing Xherdan Shaqiri this summer

The ex-Manchester United man wasn’t impressed with the Swiss international.

Jamie Watts

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Premier League pundit and Manchester United legend Gary Neville appears to have warned Liverpool – and other potential suitors – off signing Stoke City maestro Xherdan Shaqiri this summer, after his “lazy” performance against Brazil last night.

Jurgen Klopp is reportedly keen on the £12 million man, after seeing a move for Lyon star Nabil Fekir fall through in advanced stages, and is likely to step up his interest once the World Cup concludes, according to reports from the Mirror.

The Reds have been courting the Swiss international since 2014, before Jurgen Klopp was manager, back when former club Bayern Munich were said to have blocked a move, and he later joined Inter Milan.

Photo: Getty Images

Now, having been relegated with Stoke City, it looks increasingly likely that the 26-year-old will leave the bet365 Stadium. But, Neville – who joined the ITV panel as a pundit yersterday – has suggested that the Champions League runners-up would be best advised to look elsewhere (the Express).

Speaking before the game, Neville revealed: “I’m not a fan of Shaqiri to be honest with you. I think that was made worse by the fact that he distanced himself from his teammates as Stoke. [Stoke] were unprofessional last season, there’s no doubt, and he epitomises it.

“He could score the goal of the tournament and could have the most amazing game. But he could also be there for three matches, do nothing and just amble and waddle around.”

Shaqiri, despite his limited work-rate, did provide a pivotal moment in the game, as his perfectly floated corner landed on the head of Steven Zuber in the second-half, with the defender equalling the score, and the Swiss taking their equal share of points on the night.

Photo: Getty Images

Prior to this, Neville slammed his work-rate during the half-time interval claiming: “Shaqiri is just lazy. There’s no other word for him. He will not run back.” And this was evident as captain Steven Lichtsteiner was forced to shackle Neymar, Marcelo and Philippe Coutinho on his own for large periods.

Given the high-pressing, high-energy philosophy that Klopp’s outfit employs, Neville could be making a crucial point. But time will tell to see if the Potter’s performance has influenced Liverpool’s decision in the near future.

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Liverpool

Liverpool fans won’t be disheartened by lack of Timo Werner talks after World Cup display

The German has been heavily linked with Liverpool but is still not the finished article.

Mathew Nash

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One man who has been consistently linked with a move to Liverpool in recent seasons is German striker Timo Werner. The Leipzig star was, therefore, being watched closely by Reds fans when Germany took on Mexico in the first game of Germany’s World Cup defence.

Werner, who has also been tipped as one of 10 players to watch at the World Cup by The Boot Room, did not have his best game.

The Leipzig striker struggled throughout the game to make any sort of impact against Mexico’s excellent defenders. In the end, he was hauled off, limping, after a poor display in Moscow, with El Tri winning the game 1-0.

Whilst Liverpool continues to be a rumoured destination for Werner, it is clear that the Reds are not apparently interested. It was reported by the Liverpool Echo that the club made it clear he was not a target as far back as March. Which was a surprise, considering he has scored 21 goals this season.

(Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

But based on this performance, Liverpool fans will not be too disappointed in the decision.

With Nabil Fekir no longer arriving, the Werner rumours had recently come back to the surface. But it would appear Rhian Brewster, handed a new deal by Liverpool this weekend, may now get a pathway to the first-team.

As for Werner, his ability is not in doubt. This summer he may make a move and wherever he goes he will surely be a success.

But Liverpool will not be overly concerned about their decision to let a transfer move slide.   

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