Liverpool are on course for their first top flight title since 1990 and their first ever Premier League crown. Jurgen Klopp has built a machine – they are still undefeated for the season despite the scare against West Ham on Monday night. But who is their most important player?
Neil Squires – Roberto Firmino
Take Roberto Firmino out of the Liverpool machine and it would be in greater danger of a malfunction than with any other player.
As the fulcrum of the Liverpool attack, the Brazilian is the tap that turns the champions-elect on.
He does not score as often as Salah or Mane but without his input neither would have as many opportunities to demonstrate their potency.
He has the vision of a seer, the touch of a surgeon and the angles he cuts with his passing are a work of geometric art.
Liverpool maintained their unbeaten record this season after a 3-2 win against West Ham
Rhys Turrell – Virgil van Dijk
For me, this is a no-brainer. Liverpool coped fine without Alisson earlier this season with Adrian proving to be an able deputy.
Jordan Henderson has been hailed for his captaincy, but Van Dijk is no less of a leader for the Reds.
He runs the game from centre-back and you’ve only got to look at how many games Liverpool have won by a single-goal margin this season to see it’s the defence – not the attack of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino – who are the rock their dominance is built on.
Matthew Dunn – James Milner
Not the obvious choice, perhaps. But while Virgil van Dijk and Mo Salah are the players who regularly win games for Liverpool – it is James Milner who ensures they don’t lose any.
Always the unsung hero, he represents the strength in depth that Jurgen Klopp has at his disposal. They are due to miss Jordan Henderson for the next few weeks… no bother, Milner can fill in.
He was the most level-headed 16-year-old ever when I watched him first break through to the big time at Leeds and every tier of experience has just built his value to the collective unit.
When Liverpool’s backs are against the wall, often it is Milner they turn to. He may not be their best player – these days he most certainly is not – but every great team needs that glue to hold the whole thing together.
He is the secret ingredient that has made a strong team into a great one.
Liverpool news: Salah netted again vs West Ham
Stuart Ballard – Virgil van Dijk
This is a no brainer. The scoring talents of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have been undisputed while Roberto Firmino makes everything tick up front but Liverpool’s most important player, not just this season, but since he’s joined is Virgil van Dijk.
Since joining Liverpool in January 2018, the Reds have conceded just 49 goals in the 146 games he has played
There is no defender in the world who has looked as solid as the Holland international and his calming presence at the back has been the starting block for Liverpool’s success as they close in on a first top flight title in 30 years.
Ryan Taylor – Virgil van Dijk
While there are so many important cogs in Jurgen Klopp’s juggernaut, without Virgil van Dijk there’s no way it would function at this record-breaking trajectory.
Let’s not forget that before he arrived, Liverpool were leaking goals and even if they scored three, you never felt the game was won.
Their defensive record has improved enormously over the past two seasons and Van Dijk is the man responsible for that power-shift into shut out specialists.
We have become so accustomed to his performances, that he still isn’t getting the recognition he deserves. The Dutchman is indispensable and for me, the pick of the bunch.
James Benson – Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk’s arrival at Liverpool was the catalyst Jurgen Klopp’s men needed to transform from also-rans to contenders and then, as they are now, winners.
The Dutchman takes much-deserved plaudits on a weekly basis and while it’s premature to say he’s already a Premier League great, he’s well on the way to one day achieving that status.
Liverpool have flashier plays in the form of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah but the foundations of their success are a strong defence and Van Dijk – flanked by four other top performers – is integral to that.
Trent Alexander-Arnold gets a nod too as he’s crucial to the way Liverpool play, but he’s just not as important as his talismanic team-mate.
Liverpool ought to tie Van Dijk down to a new deal to ensure that he has a simple decision to make when Barcelona or Real Madrid come calling.