Virgil van Dijk acknowledges his "mediocre" performances for Liverpool last season

Virgil van Dijk has admitted that his performances were "mediocre" and "sometimes even bad" for Liverpool last season.

The Reds defender struggled to find form last campaign in a Liverpool side that underperformed, with some questioning whether the 32-year-old would ever get back to his imperious best.

Liverpool finished fifth in the Premier League, failed to make a dent in the domestic cup competitions and crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid in the last 16.

Van Dijk was a constant in a shaky Liverpool backline and suffered a significant drop-off in his performances, something he admitted in an interview with Dutch news outlet Algemeen Dagblad.

"I take some criticism seriously, but not all," said Van Dijk. "I know very well when I play well and when I don’t. Last season was just mediocre, sometimes even bad.

"As a team we also struggled to find a good rhythm at Liverpool. The Nations League with the Dutch team was also not good."

Having made the final four of the Nations League with the Netherlands, Van Dijk and Co. lost to Croatia in the semi-final 4-2, before falling to a 3-2 defeat in the third-place play-off against Italy. The Dutch national team also struggled to make a sizeable impact at the 2022 World Cup last winter, knocked out of the quarter-final by eventual winners Argentina on penalties.

Despite his best efforts, Van Dijk struggled to recapture the form he had previously exhibited prior to the long-term cruciate ligament injury he suffered at the feet of Jordan Pickford in 2020.

However, Van Dijk has been tremendous for the Reds this term and has been one of the standout performers at the beginning of a promising campaign.

"I have thought and talked about it [last season's problems] a lot to be able to turn that around. That worked, I think. Things have been going very well again since the summer.

"My injury was very serious, it is not surprising that you have to get to know your knee again, so to speak. But now I don’t notice it anymore. I haven’t had to change much in my way of playing, I have the feeling that I can do everything again."

Van Dijk's significance to the Liverpool team has only grown this season with the centre-back named club captain at the beginning of the season following the summer exit of Jordan Henderson, a responsibility he already enjoys with the Netherlands.

"I naturally find it very beautiful and honourable," Van Dijk said of becoming Liverpool captain. "There’s a lot involved, perhaps even more at the club than at the national team. You have a lot of responsibility towards the entire team, especially the younger boys, and also towards the club as a whole.

"I don’t always play in our European matches, but as captain you are still expected to be important to the team on those days. I try to do my very best in that regard. It certainly doesn’t have a negative impact on my game. Not exactly: it is more of an incentive."

Van Dijk will face his toughest test of the season when he returns from international duty, with Liverpool travelling to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City. The Dutch colossus will likely have to cope with Erling Haaland, although the forward could be injured for the match.

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