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Virgil Van Dyke: Everyone wants him! Who really needs him?

Nearly all of the Premier league’s top six clubs have fluttered their eyelashes at Southampton’s Virgil van Dyke and there is no doubt that he would improve any team. He is a classy footballer, physically imposing, comfortable in possession and tactically very aware. Van Dyke is strong in the air, has an eye for a pass and capable of chipping in with six or seven goals a season. Many teams want him but who really needs him? We take a look at the main players in this long running saga.

Southampton
Possession is nine tenths of the law and currently, Van Dyke is a Southampton player. Southampton built a reputation as a club with one of the finest youth academies in the country, developing a conveyor belt of superstars and selling them at great expense to supposedly bigger clubs. These names include Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana etc. They also bought promising players and sold them on at a profit  e.g.,Sadie Mane, Victor Wanyana, Dejan Lovren etc. However, last summer’s hard line stance and refusal to sell Van Dyke, their star player, even eliciting an apology from Liverpool for alleged tapping up, was supposed to be a,” line in the sand” moment. This was a message to their fans, their players and opposing clubs. Southampton were no longer a selling club. They had recruited a high profile manager in Mauricio Pellegrini and after a few seasons as one of the better teams in the Premier League were ready to push on and challenge higher up the table. The reality is, though, they kept Virgil Van Dyke, we are practically halfway through the season and, if anything, Southampton have regressed. They are sat twelfth in the league but only three points off the relegations places and, in all honesty, their priorities have changed. They can survive without Van Dyke, but could really use the seventy million pounds revenue his sale would generate to strengthen other areas of the squad.

Arsenal
Arsenal seem to have had a vulnerable defence since Tony Adams retired. They have had good defenders Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Laurent Koscielmy but they haven’t had a good defence. Arsenal are actually pretty close to having a good defence now; Koscielmy is Premier League winning class, Victor Bellerin is potentially world class, and Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac are decent defenders. Throw Van Dyke into that mix, keep Nacho Monreal happy as a back up and you have a pretty good defensive unit. This won’t of course compensate for the lack of coaching and work on shape that undermines all of Arsenal’s good work in possession. Until they fix their shape and work rate when they don’t have the ball they will continue to leave their back line exposed. However, adding someone like Van Dyke to their back line would definitely shore up some of their problems and definitely make a statement to the world about their intentions to progress as a club.

Liverpool

Liverpool have long been the front runners in the chase for Van Dykes signature and many neutrals, and possibly Liverpool believed a deal was done last summer. Southampton though, had different ideas, dug their heels in, and, despite a transfer request from the player, the deal didn’t materialise. Liverpool’s defensive woes have been well-documented and although Van Dyke would be a considerable upgrade on the central defenders Jurgen Klopp currently has at his disposal I’m not convinced Van Dyke is the answer. In reality, if Klopp buys Virgil Van Dyke he needs to buy two central defenders. Van Dyke is a brilliant central defender but he is very calm, very composed and almost languid in style. If Klopp wants to play a central defender alongside either Joel Matip or Dejan Lovren he needs a snarling, vocal defender in the mould of Tony Adams, John Terry or Jamie Carragher. Someone who would demand concentration and performances from his team mates. The Liverpool defence including the keeper continuously lets itself down with bad decision making and poor errors, admittedly they don’t get much protection from the players in front of them. At left-back Albert Moreno, like Chelsea’s David Luiz is a very good footballer but not very good at football. He is continuously caught the wrong side of his man, out of position or is diving into tackles in ridiculous situations. His recent injury may have helped Klopp, after only a few games Andy Robertson looks a much more stable option. Dejan Lovren has everything to be a top defender, but he ball watches, dives in when he can’t win the ball,( watch his two missed headers against Tottenham this season), and has moments of arrogance about him. Lovren’s decision making is really poor. He needs a strong character beside him, getting him in position, maintaining his concentration levels and I’m not sure Van Dyke is that man. Joel Matip is currently Klopp’s best option but he is a poor man’s Virgil Van Dyke, Liverpool need a really aggressive, dominant character at centre back. At right back Klopp has been robbed of Nathaniel Clyne’s services through injury. He is a proper defender, he may not be that effective in the final third but he understands the role of right back and is a very solid defender. Klopp hasn’t been able to call on him and has rotated two genuine prospects in Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold; both players look like they have big futures in front of them but it’s a big ask, hoping teenagers can help an already creaking defence. Please don’t misunderstand me, Virgil Van Dyke would be a brilliant addition to the Liverpool defence but I’m not sure he would make the players around him any better. If Liverpool buy Virgil Van Dyke, I think, they will need another centre back, if they buy a vocal, dominant leader instead, that may be all they need.

Manchester City

Manchester City currently seem the most likely destination for Van Dyke. He is a Pep Guardiola type player, good on the ball, unflappable and able to bring the ball out from the back. City already have one such player in young John Stones who is encouraged to play with no fear of repercussions if he makes a mistake. It is clear that City need a new centre back. They haven’t managed to replace Vincent Kompany, but injuries and ageing legs have detracted from his performances. He is still one of the best centre backs around but he won’t last much longer. Nicolas Otamendi is a solid enough centre back but when he plays it always feels like he has a bad mistake or a red card not far away. The truth is, his record suggests he always has a costly mistake or a red card not far away. Van Dyke would be a good fit for City but as they are running away with the Premier League and appear to be playing the best football in Europe, I understand they want him, can afford him, but really, do they need him?

Chelsea

Chelsea are the other big team consistently linked with Virgil Van Dyke, but the emergence of Andreas Christensen as a truly top performer. The transformation of Cesar Azpilicueta from brilliant full back to brilliant centre back,( he is playing like the best defender in the world right now),  has softened the need for Chelsea to chase his signature. Although they may be letting David Luiz go in January don’t forget, if needed, they have the very capable Kurt Zouma out on loan. Chelsea have more pressing needs than Virgil Van Dyke, he would slot right in and make them better but they don’t have a really urgent need for him.

Southampton, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, all of them would like Virgil Van Dyke but who really needs him? I believe he would have the biggest impact at Arsenal, he would fit right in and immediately make them much, much better. Where he ends up still remains to be seen but unfortunately for Gooners everywhere, I somehow doubt he will end up signing for the Arsenal!

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