Arsene Wenger surprised a few on Monday night when he opted to switch Arsenal to a 3-man defence. He hoped that the decision would see similar success to Antonio Conte’s.
Chelsea were struggling in the early stages under Conte but after changing to a 3-man defence they produced stunning form that will surely see them lift the title. Title challenging manager Pochettino has also demonstrated tactical flexibility, successfully implementing 3-man defence on several occasions. Arsenal won against Boro on Monday in the new formation, but they didn’t flatter. It’s clear that if Wenger wants to implement this system in the long-term then Arsenal need to make some signings. According to The Mirror, this is exactly what Wenger wants to do, and he’s willing to heavily invest in a special Premier League talent to do just that. The player said to tickle Wenger’s fancy is Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk, a player widely considered amongst the best in his position in the league, however his club value him at £50million. With the likes of Chelsea interested, Arsenal may have to pay close to that amount as a summer bidding war is likely.
But if Arsenal are to seriously compete for major honours, they need to start winning these bidding wars. If van Dijk is the player the club want and the player the club need, then they should do everything in their power to sign him. Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding and even Calum Chambers all have the potential to be successful in a 3-man defence, but there is something that Arsenal don’t currently have amongst their rank of central defenders and that is a strong, aerially dominant centre-half. Van Dijk ticks those boxes and also has a lot of technical ability – something that would make him well suited to Arsenal’s style of play and also a great spearhead for the defensive 3.
He’s a good age to invest in too, at 25 years old he has established himself in the league as a top player and still has his prime years ahead of him.
Van Dijk has won on average 4.7 aerial duels per game won in the league this season – greater than Mustafi (3.8) and Koscielny (3.7). The Dutchman’s 6ft 4’ presence will be one of the biggest additions to the Arsenal back line if he were to arrive. Arsenal have lost too many points this season via a lack of defensive authority, particularly in aerial duels and with organisation. A back three of Mustafi, van Dijk and Koscielny would make Arsenal very hard to beat and certainly aid their title challenge next season.
Southampton will be reluctant to sell another top class player this summer, but there must be a reluctance to some degree that van Dijk will want to move on and play European football next season. Will Arsenal flex their financial muscle and beat Chelsea to this signing though? It seems the Gunners missed out on N’Golo Kante for financial reasons and they will not want to let another top quality Premier League established player join a title rival.