Arsenal will reportedly battle Premier League rivals Chelsea to sign Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk in the summer. The Netherlands international will cost around £50 million and is also wanted by Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City, even though Chelsea remain the favourites, per Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph.
The table-topping Blues are leading the race for Van Dijk, but Arsenal remain undeterred, according to Burt: "It is understood that Arsenal are prepared to match any wages offered by rival clubs for the Holland international who they considered when he left Celtic for Southampton for just £13 million in 2015."
Bettering the wages a Chelsea club fiscally underpinned by owner Roman Abramovich can offer would represent a major outlay for the Gunners. So would putting up the proposed £50 million fee.
However, Van Dijk is worth the cost as arguably the most complete centre-back in the Premier League. Still just 25, the Dutchman is a physical presence who is dominant on the deck and commanding in the air. He is also a classy and cultured player with the ball at his feet.
Van Dijk's distribution skills would make him a terrific fit for the 3-4-3 formation Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has deployed for the club's last two matches—2-1 wins over Middlesbrough and Manchester City.
The tactical tweak has inspired improved performances from some of the Gunners' incumbent centre-backs. Among them, much-maligned Brazilian Gabriel stood out in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win over City, per Squawka Football:
Youngster Rob Holding also caught the eye. The 21-year-old former Bolton Wanderers prospect received high praise from Charles Watts of Football.London: "Alongside the calming presence of Laurent Koscielny and the brutish power of Gabriel, he went toe to toe with some of the best attacking players Europe can offer."
Yet despite the improvement from Holding and Gabriel, there is no doubt Arsenal's back three would look a lot stronger with Van Dijk alongside skipper Laurent Koscielny and Germany international Shkodran Mustafi.
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