Arsenal Transfer News: Virgil van Dijk Rumours Emerge Amid Chelsea Interest

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2017

Southampton's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk reacts during the EFL (English Football League) Cup semi-final first-leg football match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England on January 11, 2017. / AFP / Adrian DENNIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Arsenal have become the latest top Premier League club linked with a move for Southampton star Virgil van Dijk, joining Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton on the list of suitors.

According to John Cross of the Daily Mirror, the Blues remain the favourites to land the Dutch defender but Gunners manager Arsene Wenger wants to "hijack" the move.

Per the report, Wenger's experiment with a back three against Middlesbrough on Monday was not a one-time thing, as the Frenchman is open to using the hip formation more often. For that, he'll need another quality centre-back, and Arsenal have already inquired about Van Dijk.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14:  Virgil van Dijk of Southampton controls the ball in the box during the Premier League match between Burnley and Southampton at Turf Moor on January 14, 2017 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The former Celtic man is one of the hottest names on the transfer market after impressing on the south coast. The 25-year-old's strong form has led to persistent talk of a move, with Chelsea and Manchester City linked most often.

Liverpool have been mentioned quite a lot of late, and Reds blogger Leanne Prescott welcomed the rumours:

Van Dijk is blessed with size, athleticism and solid vision—traits he's put to good use for Saints. He feels comfortable with the ball at his feet and can be a force in the air, and he rarely gets rattled.

His positioning has become consistently better over the past three years, and it is at the level where he often doesn't even have to make the tackle. Here's a look at some of his highlights during international duty:

Van Dijk is the type of quality, Premier League-proven player Arsenal should target. The Gunners could use a defensive upgrade, as Laurent Koscielny has regressed tremendously in the past 18 months and Per Mertesacker has fallen out of favour.

Shkodran Mustafi is a great option in defence, and Gabriel Paulista has shown flashes. There's young talent waiting in the wings, but Van Dijk would be a plug-and-play star who would instantly improve the defence dramatically.

The three-man back line has gained popularity in recent seasons, with plenty of Italian clubs finding success using some variant. Chelsea have used a back three almost exclusively of late, and both City and Manchester United have experimented with similar formations this season.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 07:  Virgil van Dijk of Southampton reacts during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Norwich City and Southampton at Carrow Road on January 7, 2017 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Wenger has been a firm believer in the 4-2-3-1 for years, but the 3-4-2-1 he used against Middlesbrough brought a stability to a defence that has been sorely lacking this season.

While Arsenal aren't among the favourites to land Van Dijk―Chelsea and City appear to be ahead in the queue―expect the Gunners to keep their eye out for defensive reinforcements during the summer.