There is no denying the impact that Virgil van Dijk has made since arriving at Liverpool in January 2018 for a then world-record fee of £75 million. The towering Dutchman was the missing piece in the puzzle for Jurgen Klopp’s side and since bringing him on board, they have gone on to scale great heights.
From making the UEFA Champions League final in 2017/18 and winning it in the next campaign to following it up with a Premier League title tilt this season, Liverpool have been near-unstoppable. And van Dijk’s contribution to this success is invaluable.
Last summer though, van Dijk was displaced as the most expensive defender in the world. Manchester United splashed a new record fee of £80 million to sign Harry Maguire from Leicester City. And naturally, comparisons between the two have been flying ever since.
Maguire has grown into a pivotal player for Manchester United in his debut season. The England international was also handed the club captaincy after Ashley Young’s departure in January.
But how does he measure up against van Dijk when comparing their performances from the 2019/20 season?
Both Maguire and van Dijk have appeared in 29 matches in the Premier League this season, although the former has slightly more minutes than the Liverpool man, who had to be subbed off in a game.
Both are of similar physical stature, which they put to good use in aerial battles in their own box as well as the opposition penalty area. Maguire has won 136 of his 190 attempted aerial duels this season (71.5 percent), which comes to 4.7 duels won per game. In comparison, van Dijk has a slightly better win percentage of 75.2 (143 wins of 190 attempts), with 4.9 aerial duel wins per game.
Tackles and interceptions are key measures that give an indication of a defender’s performance. Maguire edges van Dijk in both these parameters, averaging 1.1 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game, whereas the Liverpool star posts numbers of 0.8 tackles and one interception every game.
In total, Maguire has won 32 out of his 45 tackle attempts and affected 53 interceptions, while van Dijk has won 22 out of his 28 attempts and made 30 interceptions. The Manchester United man has made 24 blocks and 132 clearances so far in the top flight, whereas the Liverpool defender has 19 blocks and 135 clearances.
Coming to disciplinary record, van Dijk stands above Maguire, having picked up just one yellow card this season, in comparison to his counterpart’s four. Moreover, the Liverpool man has conceded much fewer fouls (10) than Maguire (24) in the Premier League.
Passing and dribbling
A modern central defender is required to possess ball-playing abilities, which both Maguire and van Dijk do. Both men are able to pick passes accurately and step out of the backline with the ball at their feet when needed.
Van Dijk has completed 2210 of his 2478 attempted passes this season, posting an excellent pass accuracy of 89.2 percent. The Netherlands international makes an average of 85.4 passes and 0.2 key passes every game.
In comparison, Maguire has made 1553 successful passes (1823 attempts) at a success rate of 85.2. The Englishman attempts 62.9 passes per game but outdoes van Dijk when it comes to key passes, with 0.5 every game.
However, one must factor in that Liverpool tend to dominate possession in most matches, averaging 59 percent per game, whereas Manchester United post an average possession stat of 53.3 percent.
The Liverpool star has completed two out of three attempted dribbles this term, whereas the Manchester United captain has successfully completed six out ten dribbles this season. Van Dijk has also been dispossessed fewer times (2) this season, in comparison to Maguire (4).
Coming to their direct goal involvement, van Dijk stands head and shoulder above Maguire. The Liverpool man has netted four goals and assisted one more, whereas the Manchester United centre-back is yet to open his goalscoring account in the Premier League but does have an assist to his name.
Maguire’s shot accuracy has been quite poor this term, with him hitting the target on just eight occasions out of 26 attempts. Van Dijk, on the other hand, has been on target 11 times in 23 attempts. As a result, Maguire has also missed more big chances (4) than van Dijk this season (2).
Both Maguire and van Dijk are leaders of their respective teams on the field. And their presence has invariably helped performances for Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
The fact that Liverpool boast the best defensive record in the Premier League (21 goals conceded) has a lot to do with van Dijk’s performance and his ability to keep things organised at the back.
On the other hand, United are the fourth-best in the league in terms of goals conceded (30), which is a major improvement from last season, during which they had conceded these many by Matchweek 18 itself, showing the impact Maguire’s arrival has made.
With Maguire commanding things at the back, the performances of those around him, especially Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw, have improved drastically. In a similar fashion, Joel Matip looked a much better defender playing alongside van Dijk last season, while he has had the same effect on Joe Gomez this term.
One key stat that proves Maguire’s impact is that he and Lindelof have not made a single error leading to an opposition shot on goal in the 26 matches they have started together in the Premier League. In comparison, van Dijk and Gomez have made two such errors in much fewer games (14) played together this season.
Maguire and van Dijk have had terrific seasons for Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, both playing integral roles in their team’s fortunes. Naturally, they are the highest-rated defenders in the Premier League, according to stats experts WhoScored.com.
Looking at the finer aspects of their performances, it can be gauged that defensively, they have been more or less equally good, but van Dijk edges out Maguire when it comes to attacking contributions.
Regardless, it has been said that with their consistent, top-class performances this season, both van Dijk and Maguire have provided ample returns on the sizable chunks of change spent by their respective teams.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Oli Scarff / Paul Ellis
Stats courtesy: WhoScored.com, PremierLeague.com