Interview'Embrace it' - Virgil van Dijk on fixture frenzy, Arsenal and World Cup joy
Liverpool should ‘embrace’ a frantic run of 13 games in six weeks that begins with the visit of Arsenal on Saturday afternoon, stated Virgil van Dijk.
As the club campaign restarts following the final international pause of 2021, the Reds face a challenging period of games in three competitions heading into the New Year.
Van Dijk acknowledged the difficulties that can come with such a demanding period of the season but insisted the squad must ‘go for it and enjoy the moment’.
“It is [quite a lot of games], but playing games is the most beautiful thing as a football player. Just embrace it,” the centre-back told Liverpoolfc.com during a chat at the AXA Training Centre on Thursday.
“We need everyone and everyone realises that as well. We just have to go for it, you can’t change it, you just have to enjoy it. Enjoy the moment, don’t get injured and hopefully get good results all together.”
It starts tomorrow at Anfield as Jürgen Klopp’s men welcome a Gunners team unbeaten in their past eight Premier League matches and now just one place and two points behind Liverpool in the table.
Van Dijk wants to see a clear response to the defeat at West Ham United a fortnight ago and called for a confident approach to an intriguing contest this weekend.
“They are in a good moment, definitely,” said the No.4. “It’s going to be very tough. We’ll analyse them well. They have a clear plan, good players, a good team, a good manager.
“So we have to be very well prepared and very good to get a good result. We have to be confident. And obviously we all want to show a reaction after what happened in London.”
We caught up with Van Dijk just days after he led the Netherlands to qualification for next year’s World Cup with a 2-0 win over Norway.
Read the rest of the interview, on his sense of pride at the achievement with his country and more on the game versus Arsenal, below…
Firstly, congratulations – you’re heading to the World Cup. How big a moment was that for you and your teammates?
Massive, yeah – very proud. Very proud of the boys. It was quite an interesting week that we all had at the national team, obviously having a big chance to qualify already on Saturday – it was a disappointing night for all of us. I didn’t feel that bad for a long time after the game, obviously with also the responsibility I have as a captain. It was quite intense, quite tough, but the way we turned it around, focused on the task ahead and the professionalism we had was something to be very proud of and very happy about, of course.
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The celebrations were brilliant, some fabulous photos. How much did it mean to you, especially given you had to sit out the Euros?
It means so much. Playing a World Cup is something special, in my opinion – I think. Obviously I didn’t play one so far. But to be able to participate after being out for so long, it’s something I’m looking forward to. Looking forward to with this group of boys and all the hard work we put in and the progress we have made over the last years as well, and to be back where we all wanted to be. And hopefully perform and do well as well.
Are moments like that what you play the game for? To get on the biggest stage with your friends…
Definitely. Every day you work so hard towards success. In this case, obviously we worked so hard to qualify for the tournament and especially after what happened on Saturday with us, it was such a relief, such a good feeling we all had. And that goes also with the club, we work every day so hard to hopefully be at the end of the season with some silverware. We’ll see if that will be the case.
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You mentioned the frustration of the West Ham game – from a defender’s point of view, how have you looked back at the goals conceded and the way West Ham approached trying to beat you?
Obviously we don’t want to concede goals at all. The way we conceded there is something we have to look at it, we will look at it, and we probably all have looked at personally. We’ll obviously discuss it today, take it with us and do better. That’s how we are in it and that’s how I see it as well.
They obviously had a clear way of playing to try to put pressure on you. As defenders and the goalkeeper, do you get together after and talk through it, or do you do it as a group? How do you approach dealing with a problem like that?
You have to deal with it on the pitch most of the time. Normally after a game you will discuss it together with the team. This time obviously everyone went different ways so it was a bit difficult, but from today on we will discuss things. We won’t make it bigger than it should be, I don’t think it’s worrying at all. But no-one wants to concede goals, no-one wants to lose games. That’s what happened and we have to make it right.
The good thing is, this team has shown over the last few years it is very good at bouncing back from a defeat – and that’s the approach that will stand you in good stead for the weekend?
Yeah, we should be confident regardless. We have a fantastic group of players and we play at home. We know it’s going to be tough because Arsenal are a good team, they are in a good situation. But we’ll look at ourselves more in this case and try to perform as well as we can.