Virgil van Dijk hailed Liverpool’s most complete performance of the season as the Reds took complete control of the Premier League by battering Leicester on Boxing Day .
The league leaders were in majestic form at the King Power Stadium, winning 4-0 to move 13 points clear at the top of the table. And, although Manchester City could cut that lead to 11 points with a win at Wolves on Friday, Jurgen Klopp’s men still boast a game in hand on their nearest rivals.
Leicester was supposed to be a real test of their credentials, but Brendan Rodgers’ side were simply no match. Liverpool dominated from first whistle to last, and could have had more than four goals to show for their superiority. Leicester finished without a single shot on target in the 90 minutes.
“Yeah, it was not a bad Boxing Day!” smiled Van Dijk afterwards. “Yes, it might be one of the best performances so far, because it was from start to finish.
“I think they never had a shot on target? We dominated the game, we dominated possession, we dominated with chances. It was a complete performance.”
It was also a performance littered with individual brilliance. Roberto Firmino scored twice, while Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Gini Wijnaldum bossed midfield.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, delivered a display that had both Klopp and Rodgers purring. The full-back scored Liverpool’s fourth goal and set up the other three. Even Javier Mascherano, the former Reds midfielder, took to Twitter to express his admiration.
Van Dijk, though, was keen not to go overboard in his praise for the 21-year-old.
“Well first of all he needs to help us get clean sheets, and today he did that!” he smiled. “And secondly, to be that important with his contribution to the goals, that’s a big bonus for us. They left the whole right side open for us.
“[James] Maddison was playing inside so we had to find [Trent], we had to switch the ball quick, get him in open spaces, and we did that well. And obviously he did well too!”
Asked if he was surprised at Leicester’s narrow setup, Van Dijk added: “No, no, they had a game plan. And I think they did the same at Anfield and it worked pretty well for them.
“They might have thought they’ll do the same, try to isolate me with [Harvey] Barnes and Joe [Gomez] with [Jamie] Vardy. But it didn’t work out too well for them.
“Obviously we had to exploit the spaces that they give us, and I think we did that very well.”
Liverpool’s performance was all the more impressive given their preparation for the game.
They had only flown back from Qatar, where they had been busy winning the Club World Cup, on Sunday and had five first-teamers sidelined through injury.
Any suggestion of fatigue or complacency, though, was swiftly dismissed.
“Most of the players are used to playing every three days so it is no problem,” Van Dijk said. “We travelled back on Sunday morning, and I don’t think any of us were up late after the game anyway. We had treatment on the plane, then we had three full days to prepare for Leicester.
“Everyone was ready. You don’t need to be extra motivated for this one, we knew how big it was and, yeah, we played well!"
They certainly did, and their dominance will inevitably lead to suggestions that the title race is done and dusted.
Not that anyone in the dressing room will be getting carried away, mind.
“Yeah, you guys have to talk about it!” Van Dijk said. “You guys can do the talking, we’ll focus on the games ahead of us.
“We can’t say too much, we will give the same answers every time and try to win the game ahead of us. We’re feeling good and hopefully we can continue.
“Now is an opportunity to recover and be ready for Wolves. It will be tough again and hopefully we will be at our best. But it’s all about winning games.”