Virgil van Dijk has admitted his form has dipped this season but believes Liverpool showed signs of recovery in their Champions League win against Ajax.
The Netherlands captain has been hurt by Liverpool’s recent performances and described last week’s defeat at Napoli as “absolutely shocking” and “unacceptable”. Jürgen Klopp’s side responded with a much-improved display and valuable win against the Dutch champions on Tuesday, and Van Dijk claimed it could be a platform to improve on a personal and collective level.
“I can do much better and I think this was a good step in the right direction for all of us,” the defender said. “It is like it is: if you perform well as a team everyone is going to do well if you are in the same direction.
“If we do well I obviously get praise and if we don’t then I don’t, but I still think I need to improve. The only way to do it is play the games, learn from the mistakes, don’t listen to the outside world too much, speak to the people close to you. We are all human beings and we all want to do as well as we can and the same goes for me. I know for a fact I can do better – but we all can do better.
“I feel very hurt if we concede goals and don’t keep clean sheets and I feel that responsibility but that’s a good thing. I want to turn this season around not for myself but for all of us associated with the club and we want to perform as good as we can. Luckily for us this season is going to be so long with so many games and competitions; let’s just go for it, enjoy it. We will still have difficult moments but why not enjoy it?”
Van Dijk admits there was nothing to enjoy about the Napoli defeat apart from the reaction against Ajax. He said: “We were absolutely shocking that night. We know it – it hurts all of us, it hurts me. We spoke about it, we drew a line under it and we showed glimpses of what we normally are. More than glimpses by the way, but it is something we have to carry on.”
Despite the self-criticism and scathing analysis of the loss in Italy he suggested some pundits had shown a lack of understanding of the team’s form this season.
“The obvious criticism is there but ex-pros and players who have played at this level know there are times when you can have a blip, a period like this unfortunately, and it is how you react to it,” he said. “What we did last week was unacceptable, all of us, and the days after that game we definitely had a reality check. We spoke with each other and we have to carry on.
“We are good if we perform as a team. That’s the reason behind the success we had over the last five years. We press as a team, we defend as a team and if you start doing it in bits and people are not in the best form of their life it is tough.”