How does Virgil van Dijk fit into Arne Slot's system?

The Liverpool captain will be a big part of the 2024-25 campaign, but what will the adjustment to a new system be like?
Liverpool FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Liverpool FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

For years, Virgil van Dijk has been the perfect centerpiece to the defense in Jürgen Klopp's system, but with a new manager coming to Anfield, his role will be changing to a degree.

Of course, the skipper will still be on the pitch day in and day out, but the details of his responsibilities could definitely be different from what he's used to.

Some similarities between the systems

One similarity between the managers' style is the usage of a high press, which requires both technique and pace from centre-backs in order to jump back to defend at a moment's notice.

Virgil will be able to fill this need under Slot just as he did under the old gaffer, setting a great foundation for his role in the system.

Slot, however, uses a double pivot more frequently than Klopp did for much of his Liverpool tenure, but by the end, it was a more common fixture in Liverpool's tactics.

As such, Virgil should be used to compensating for sudden changes to the defensive shape given the attack-minded nature of fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold's respective roles with the team.

Trent's role particularly resembled a Slot double pivot at times, especially considering the pivot man used at Feyenoord was frequently Slot's right-back.

Lutsharel Geertruida
Feyenoord v Excelsior Rotterdam - Dutch Eredivisie / BSR Agency/GettyImages

One tactical feature that Slot has borrowed from Klopp's eternal rival Pep Guardiola is a tendency for centre-backs to play short passes up to the midfield, who in turn are the ones to create downfield opportunities.

Of course, this task is well within Virgil's capabilities, but perhaps sells the big defender a bit short, as he's actually played some very solid long balls throughout the years.

VVD will be asked to adapt a new style of passing

Still, a well-placed line-breaking pass from the back is a common feature in a Slot side, and due to some holes in Ibrahima Konate's game, Virgil will be the main supplier of those this season.

Slot's approach is also much more possession-based than Klopp's, but it's hard to say just how much that will affect the centre-backs. They should have less of the look of a long ball squad, but will still be high-paced and looking to use that possession progressively.

Overall, the biggest discrepancies between Klopp and Slot's tactics and philosophies do not lie at the back of the pitch, but rather higher up, where the likes of Mo Salah, Darwin Núñez, and even players like Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister will have much more change to which they must adapt.

Virgil will still be asked to do many of the same things we've seen from him in years past, from accommodating a high press to compensating for a double pivot fullback on the right side.

He should be more than up to the task, and a real leader through the transition from manager to manager.