“Psychologically he’s not in the same place” - Premier League pundit questions struggling Liverpool defender

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The former Anfield favourite believes a current Reds’ star is “playing within himself” after recovering from a serious injury.

Premier League pundit Danny Murphy has said that Virgil van Dijk is “psychologically not in the same place” since his return from an ACL injury at the end of the 2020/21 season.

The former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder was speaking to TalkSPORT about the Dutch defender who is currently experiencing probably his poorest run of form since signing for the club in 2018.

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Murphy, who made nearly 250 appearances for the Reds between 1997 and 2004, believes the 31-year old former Celtic and Southampton man is “playing within himself”.

Here is what the often outspoken pundit had to say about the Dutchman’s performances so far this season:

“He’s not up to his level” - Murphy questions struggling van Dijk

Van Dijk was poor all nightVan Dijk was poor all night
Van Dijk was poor all night | Getty Images

Virgil van Dijk suffered an ACL injury which kept him out for a large part of the 2020/21 season and Murphy believes his current poor form can be traced back to that.

Speaking to TalkSport, he said: “He’s not up to his level. Before his injury he was arguably looking like one of the best centre-halves we’ve ever seen.

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“The injury, which is a huge one and he’s come back from, although he’s not had problems in missing games I think psychologically he’s not in the same place.

“What I mean by that is not wanting to be as physically engaged with players and tackles, although he had the studs one at the weekend.

“He’s playing within himself a little bit and protecting himself a little bit without knowing it.”

Murphy also compared the Dutchman to one of his former teammates who suffered a similar injury, adding: “I’ve played with players who have had ACL injuries before and when they come back you can see them doing it.

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“Jimmy Bullard was a good example – he did it twice. And sometimes I can see him just staying out of things, although he wasn’t the bravest anyway!

“I think there’s maybe a little bit of staying out of trouble. You could argue the way he plays he doesn’t get himself in that much trouble anyway.

“But there is always that thing in the back of your mind when you’ve had a bad injury I think.”

However, despite his concerns around the Dutch international, Murphy is still backing him to rediscover his previous form and re-establish himself as one of the best defenders in the world.

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He added: “We are again talking about someone who has set ridiculously high standards and even when he’s dropping below them at the moment he’s still brilliant compared to a lot of other centre-halves.

“But it just seems like he’s within himself and I don’t know if he even knows why himself, sometimes you can just fall into a trap.

“I don’t think it helps having continually different centre-halves, I don’t think it helps that Fabinho in front of him hasn’t been at his best either and when you’ve got him, Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara in front of you dictating play then you’re defending less.

“It’s another case of the cream rising to the top, he’ll be back.”

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