Arsenal & City battle for £10m SPL defender: Masterstroke or Boumsong?

Arsenal and Manchester City are set to do battle over Celtic's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, who has been valued at around £10m.

The two sides are currently challenging for the Premier League title, with Arsene Wenger's Gunners currently top of the league, one point clear of Manuel Pellegrini's City – despite the latter coming away with a 6-3 victory when the two sides met earlier in December.

The nine-goal encounter served to highlight how great both sides are going forward, but how porous they can be defensively, despite the two sides holding two of the best defensive records in the Premier League. As a result, both managers have been linked with moves for a number of central defenders this month, but now seem ready to tussle over van Dijk.

The 22 year old centre back only joined Celtic in the summer, leaving Eredivisie side Groningen for £2.6m in June. At 6ft 4in tall, van Dijk is a physically imposing defender who will dominate aerial battles, but whilst you would expect someone of his size to be strong and good in the air, there are few central defenders who can do this.

Van Dijk combines his athletic abilities with technical attributes too, as that goal shows his skill on the ball. Defenders who can stride out of defence and create chances are at a premium, and his wide array of talents have attracted the interest of Arsenal and Manchester City.

Of course, many SPL players have struggled in the Premier League, and a £10m swoop for a centre back who impressed after just six months in Scotland would be eerily reminiscent of Newcastle's 2005 swoop for Rangers defender Jean-Alain Boumsong. The Frenchman moved to St. James' Park for £8m, but was a spectacular flop and spent just a year and a half on Tyneside before a £3.3m switch to Juventus.

Should Arsenal or Manchester City make moves for van Dijk, they will be praying that his career doesn't follow the path of Boumsong. Arsenal may hope that the Dutchman will provide more depth behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker with Thomas Vermaelen rumoured to be heading for the exit, whilst Manchester City are yet to find a true partner for captain Vincent Kompany. Martin Demichelis, Matija Nastasic, Joleon Lescott and Javi Garcia have all tried to make the position their own, but none have been able to hold the spot down on a regular basis – leading Pellegrini to search for improvements.

image: © wonker

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