Arsenal Transfer News: Virgil Van Dijk Would Offer Gunners Defensive Boost

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IOctober 26, 2014

SALZBURG,AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Virgil van Dijk of Celtic in action during the UEFA Europa League Group D match between FC Salzburg and Celtic FC on September 18, 2014 in Salzburg,Austria. (Photo by Samuel Kubani/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

Arsenal's defensive concerns this season have been much publicised, with the club's six first-team defensive options stretched to the limit even at this early stage of the season.

It has been no surprise, in that context, to see the Gunners linked with a number of defensive options ahead of the January transfer window, the latest of which has been Celtic's Virgil van Dijk over the course of recent days.

On Sunday, the Dutch centre-back was reported to have responded to suggestions of interest from North London. Per the Daily Star's Jack Wilson, he said of a potential move:

Arsenal are an amazing club. It’s a big club with a great history. I’m happy here just now and I want to play well and we’ll see what happens in the future.

Until there are bids I can’t say thing. There is no rush to leave but you never know in the future.

The towering former Groningen defender, just 23, was well respected in his homeland prior to moving to Scotland and has continued to develop well as a player during his time in Glasgow, being called to the Netherlands national side for the first time earlier this year.

What will be so appealing about the Dutchman to Arsene Wenger's side is that, while he is also a great physical asset standing at 6'4" tall, he is also technically sound with the ball at his feet.

Van Dijk is not afraid to mix it physically with opponents
Van Dijk is not afraid to mix it physically with opponentsGetty Images/Getty Images

WhoScored.com statistics show that Van Dijk has completed 85 percent of his attempted passes in the Europa League this season, while defensively he has also contributed 7.7 clearances and 2.3 interceptions per game. He has played an important role in the Scottish club's successes in the competition.

Given his age and performances on the European stage, it is unsurprising that he should be attracting suitors of Arsenal's calibre. Indeed, the Gunners are far from the only big English club to have suffered defensive woes this season. Given that he is just across the border, he is highly visible to any interested party.

In the summer, it was reported that both Sunderland and Southampton had bids of around £10 million rejected for the defender—an indication of Van Dijk's current valuation—as tweeted by Dutch football expert Michiel Jongsma:

Given that Southampton coach Ronald Koeman's signings from the Eredivisie have thus far proved perfectly judged for the Premier League, such interest is also a great recommendation of Van Dijk's abilities.

Beyond simply adding depth to a depleted defence, Van Dijk has the potential to challenge 30-year-old Per Mertesacker for his place in the side over the next couple of seasons were he to sign.

Mertesacker and partner Laurent Koscielny have little competition for their first-team places since the summer departure of Belgian Thomas Vermaelen, and it is vital that they are given challengers to avoid complacency.

Van Dijk would be more than adequate competition and, given his age, a potential successor to either player—more likely Mertesacker.

It remains to be seen whether the interest in Van Dijk is enough to see the Gunners match his asking price, but if they don't, it is likely that another club will within the next 12 months or so. Defenders of such quality are hard to come by, and sadly, Celtic are no longer able to retain such players as long as they could have just a few years ago.

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