Liverpool loanee is on par with Virgil van Dijk this season and Jürgen Klopp could soon benefit


Liverpool's season, barring a couple of minor slip-ups, has started quite well. Jürgen Klopp can be pleased with how his new players have settled into life at Anfield, and how his new captain has started the season as well. Virgil van Dijk has returned to his imperious best and it speaks volumes that once again he is yet to be dribbled past this season.

The Liverpool captain's form has undoubtedly contributed to Liverpool's improvement as well. But it hasn't just been Van Dijk. On the whole defensively, Liverpool has looked a lot better in contrast to previous seasons. The Reds have been far more effective at stifling counter attacks and keeping the opposition at bay.

But it's not just Klopp's stars in his current squad who are catching the eye. Away from Liverpool, a loanee has also enjoyed a really positive start to the season and in one key metric has even kept pace with Van Dijk himself.

When Sepp van den Berg first arrived at the club, comparisons to Van Dijk were inevitable given he was also Dutch and played in the same position as the new Liverpool captain. But over four years on from his Liverpool move, it's fair to say, he hasn't quite lived up to expectations just yet.

With only four senior appearances for Liverpool in total, Van den Berg has spent most of his time on loan at several clubs including Preston North End and Schalke. This summer he moved to Mainz, who has had to endure a terrible start to the season, and currently sit second from bottom in the Bundesliga.

But despite Mainz's poor start, Van den Berg has stood out, and has actually impressed at times this season already. In some metrics he has even been up there with Van Dijk.

For example as per FBref, take the three defenders with the most aerial duels won so far this season in Europe's top five league. The first is Ethan Pinnock with 53 aerial duels won, the second is Van Dijk with 45 and then the third is Van den Berg with 44. The young defender has impressively won 71 per cent of his aerial duels and that's up there with Van Dijk's figures as well over the course of his career in a red shirt.

But it's not just aerially where Van den Berg has excelled. He's also won 64.83 per cent of his defensive duels as per Wyscout and has averaged 5.82 interceptions per 90. Tasked with a lot of defending, this experience for Van den Berg could be hugely beneficial in honing his trade. He hasn't entirely been without success either. Over the weekend he started in a side which kept a clean sheet and beat RB Leipzig.

At 21 years old the sky is still the limit for Van den Berg. Center-backs tend to mature a little bit later on in their careers and hit their prime later as well. Whatever Liverpool decides to do with him in the future, whether to sell or keep him, it will be to Klopp's benefit. Either he will have a very promising player in his squad or he will be able to make a huge profit on the Dutchman.

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