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Van Dijk & Trent give Liverpool backbone of steel e e; Ex-Gunner hails impact of Virgil and says Alexander- Arnold is world's best.

Byline: PAUL GORST

VIRGIL VAN DIJK'S arrival at Liverpool gave the Reds the "ability to defend" according to ex-Arsenal star Lauren.

And the former Gunners defender also believes right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best player in his position in world football right now.

PFA Players' Player of the Year Van Dijk has been linchpin behind the best defensive record in the Premier League this term, with Liverpool shipping just 22 goals all campaign as they racked up 97 points to finish as runners-up to champions Manchester City.

Van Dijk was instrumental in helping the Reds keep 21 clean sheets and will be vital when they take on Tottenham in the Champions League final on Saturday.

Lauren, who was part of Arsenal's 'Invincibles' team of the 2003-04 campaign, hailed the impact the PS75million Dutchman Van Dijk has had since he joined the Reds from Southampton in January 2018.

The world's most expensive defender has transformed Liverpool's backline, says Lauren, but the former Cameroon international still preferred former team-mate Sol Campbell over the Netherlands skipper during an interview with American Gambler.

"Van Dijk has improved the Liverpool defence, as Liverpool were very good going forward in the first year under Jurgen Klopp but they had big problems defending," he said.

"Van Dijk has been super and given them the ability to defend, but I'd have to say Sol was the better player because he proved that with Tottenham that he was one of the best, he proved with Eng-land that he was one of the best and at Arsenal he was a top player.

"Sol didn't just win one Premier League, but won it twice. Sol Campbell was one of the best defenders in the history of football."

A former right-back himself, Lauren made 184 appearances in the Premier League across a nineyear career in England, winning two titles and four FA Cups during his time with Arsenal and Portsmouth.

And the 42-year-old has been impressed Alexander-Arnold.

The 20-year-old defender has enjoyed an incredible campaign for Klopp's side, helping the Reds to the best defensive record in the top flight while also chipping in with as many as 16 assists in all competitions.

Lauren thinks the Reds have the finest right-sided full-back on the planet after watching him closely this term.

| Ex-Arsenal Added Lauren, who was speaking exclusively to AmericanGambler.com: "He is a very very good player, he's intelligent and reads the game well and he goes up and down.

"It's a shame for (Hector) Bellerin (at Arsenal) because I like Bellerin and he's had injuries over the past few seasons, because his progression was fantastic, but at the moment Alexander Arnold is one of the best if not the best right back in the world.

Lauren "There are a few other good right backs but he is the one that has been outstanding."

Both Van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold are expected to start against Spurs in Madrid on June 1. Lauren has hailed Liverpool's ongoing progress under Klopp and hopes they end their season with victory against Tottenham.

The Reds go into the game as favourites in the eyes of many having finished 26 points ahead of a Mauricio Pochettino side they beat home and away in the league.

Lauren told American Gambler: "What I like about Liverpool is that they have been progressing every single year.

"Last year they improved on the season before, and they've improved again.

"I hope they win the Champions League. I don't want Tottenham to win and the fact that Liverpool managed to qualify against Barcelona was just unbelievable.

"They were the better team against Barcelona and they proved that without Salah, Mane, Firmino. "They press high up, they keep the tempo. This Liverpool team look like they can play the same way for long periods.

"They are super and I hope they win the Champions League."

CAPTION(S):

| Centre-half Virgil Van Dijk and right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold contributed to the Premier League's best defence this season, as did left-back Andy Robertson
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:May 28, 2019
Words:666
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