Virgil van Dijk has opened up on needing to block out critics as he strives to return to perfect fitness following his nasty ACL injury.
The Dutchman damaged his knee away at Everton in October 2020 and was out of action for nine months as a result, missing the remainder of the 2020/21 season before finally making his return in this year’s opener against Norwich.
He has played every Premier League minute so far and has experienced both highs and lows, as well as the narratives that come with both success and mistakes.
“Rhythm is important and mentally it is a big thing as well,” Van Dijk said (via the Liverpool Echo) ahead of his return to Goodison Park on Wednesday.
“I’ve noticed that if I do things well, everyone says ‘he doesn’t look like he missed a whole year’. But when I make one or two mistakes – and mistakes happen – then it is said ‘you can see he’s coming back from injury’ or ‘he can’t do it anymore’.
“These sort of things are mentally a big thing. Luckily I’m strong mentally and I’m not paying any attention to all of that.
“The most important thing is you know when you do things well and with the help of the manager and my team-mates I feel that I’m progressing in each game. That’s the only thing I can do.”
Liverpool head into the game two points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, while Manchester City are a point behind Jurgen Klopp’s side as well, and Van Dijk admitted that winning the title this year will be tougher than their triumph in 2019/20.
“It’s definitely going to be more difficult to win the league in my opinion,” he said. “If you also look at the teams below the top four, everyone can win against everyone if you’re not fully focused, you’re not giving 100% or they have a little bit of luck. But that’s the Premier League.
“This season is so long and anything can happen, but if you look at the teams and the quality of the players it could be one of those years when everyone wins against each other at some point.
“The most difficult thing in football is to be consistent for the whole of the season and the season we won it we most definitely were consistent.
“We have so many games left and there can be many twists and turns. We have to be lucky with injuries, as we saw what happened last year, but we have a fantastic squad in my opinion. It’s all about being consistent and confident.
“We just have to focus on ourselves and we will. We’re not perfect – that is obvious – but we will improve.”