Virgil van Dijk is right about Liverpool as three big positives emerge after Atalanta

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk won't be lifting the Europa League trophy this season but the Premier League is still up for grabs.
Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk won't be lifting the Europa League trophy this season but the Premier League is still up for grabs. -Credit:Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

At no point in the second half did Liverpool really look like it would put Atalanta under some true pressure in Bergamo. But at the same time, the damage as Jürgen Klopp's side quietly slid, rather than crashed, out of the Europa League, was mainly done a week ago at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead from the penalty spot but he missed the best chance of the game at the Gewiss Stadium. When put through on goal, the Egyptian could only lift the ball wide when he looked certain to score. Had Salah made it 2-0 on the night, any Atalanta jitters would have been amplified — but the sixth-placed Serie A side was instead let off the hook.

"We won and we kept a clean sheet," Virgil van Dijk told TNT Sports post-match. "We played better than last week and there were many things to be positive [about]."

READ MORE: Alisson plays new Liverpool role and gesture goes flat as four things spotted vs Atalanta

READ MORE: Liverpool player ratings, winners and losers vs Atalanta as Cody Gakpo and two more good

And the Liverpool captain is right. While the Reds are out of the competition and have played their final match in Europe under Klopp, they also have six big Premier League matches left to fight for. The signs were there that they might be more winnable than they looked post-Cystal Palace.

Cody Gakpo was sharp and looked good, helping knit things together in the middle of the pitch. The Dutch forward should start again versus Fulham on Sunday and he has done more than enough to keep the shirt.

Trent Alexander-Arnold tired a lot in the second half but he showed his class in the first. Managing 70 minutes on his first start since getting injured two months ago, the full-back will have benefited from the extra action in his legs.

Alisson Becker, too, was superb, and showed the gulf between him and any other goalkeeper in world football. He was strong with his saves but impressed as an extra outfield player with the positions that he was taking up. Caoimhín Kelleher is very good but Alisson is on another level altogether.

With its first choice back five starting together for only the first time since August, it should be no surprise that Liverpool kept a clean sheet here. There is more improvement to be done in the final third but this was at least a step in the right direction.

In Gakpo, Alexander-Arnold and Alisson, three big players are back and will have benefited from the time on the field. "We are back to winning ways," Klopp said at the final whistle, and that is true.

If Liverpool is to win six out of six in the Premier League run-in and make no mistake, that is what will be required to lift the trophy — it will need to build again from here. But this was a start; the exit from Europe remains a shock one, but for what happened a week ago rather than here.