Liverpool’s loss of Van Dijk exacerbates every doubt after chaotic start | Jonathan Wilson

The long absence of the leader of their defence leaves Jürgen Klopp’s side looking fragile for the first time in three years

This was already shaping up to be a very different title race to those of the last three years and the news that Virgil van Dijk will be out for several months only makes the picture more uncertain. He, above all others, is the player Liverpool could not afford to lose. Jordan Pickford’s wild lunge at him could become the defining image of the season – and the failure to send the Everton goalkeeper off the most mystifying failure of VAR.

The start to this campaign has been generally chaotic. None of the expected title contenders has looked quite ready, their various issues magnified by a truncated pre-season. After three seasons in which the title was won with 95+ points, the likelihood is that this season something in the mid-80s will be enough, the sort of figure that was usual before the financial stratification of the league allowed the very best sides to stretch towards three figures.

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Liverpool’s loss of Van Dijk exacerbates every doubt after chaotic start | Jonathan Wilson