'He's the boss': Arsenal star eager to have the 'aura' of his Liverpool rival

One Liverpool player has received high praise from a rival at Arsenal. Virgil van Dijk’s ‘aura’ is just unmatched.

Arsenal defender William Saliba has heaped praise on Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk, admitting he wants to be at that level. The Dutchman saw a return to form last season after a difficult spell.

Saliba was talking to L'Equipe, where the topic of leadership came up. Saliba believes he's reaching the kind of level where his 'aura' intimidates opposition forwards - much like Van Dijk.

"In defense at Arsenal, I am one of the leaders," said Saliba. "Van Dijk has the aura, for example.

"He's the boss, he commands everything. You feel that it scares the attackers. But I'm starting to feel the same. I'm starting to see that the attackers feel fear."

Virgil van Dijk last season

Van Dijk has certainly commanded the most presence of any Premier League defender since moving to Liverpool in 2018. He arguably held that title at Southampton, too - there's a reason the Reds broke their transfer record for him, after all.

It's something he developed over time by 'simply' having no real weaknesses. It's almost impossible to get the better of him, given Van Dijk is quicker, stronger, or more composed than anyone he comes up against.

That helped him develop an 'aura' that was the backbone of Liverpool's defence. It's why he climbed to the top of the world football, finishing 2nd in the Ballon d'Or voting for 2018.

Now, he did lose it a little in 2022/23 as Liverpool's form suffered and it was fairly clear that the knee injury in 2020 was having an effect. This season, though, has seen Van Dijk get back to near his top level.

Of course, this coming season brings a new challenge - doing it under a new manager. Liverpool couldn't get their defence right last season, be it from midfield or at the back.

Arne Slot, however, likes to position two midfielders in front of his back four and that's something new for Van Dijk at Liverpool. Will the extra protection actually help him move up a level? It might be exactly what he needs at this stage of his career.

Something that could help carry that aura over for a good few years yet.

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