Chelsea look poised to sign Southampton centre-half Virgil van Dijk this summer.
As reported by The Telegraph, a fee of over £50 million is being mooted for the 25-year-old, which would see him usurp John Stones as the most expensive central defender in Premier League history. He will likely be in demand from several top clubs and it is interesting to note that Chelsea are thought to be most eager for his signature.
The Dutchman would be particularly suited to Chelsea’s style of play given his ease with playing out from defence. As the middleman in Chelsea’s defensive three, David Luiz has looked a man re-born this year.
Given that defensive responsibilities can be shared between the three centre-halves, the Brazilian is afforded more freedom to roam forward and showcase his distribution skills. Such freedom, not to mention to opportunity to link up with players of the calibre of N’Golo Kante are no doubt appealing to Van Dijk.
Chelsea currently sit ten points clear atop the Premier League and for all the offensive guile that they have shown this year, their success has ultimately been routed in defensive solidity. A casual glance at the league table makes plain how their profundity in front of goal has been almost matched by their rivals and even surpassed by Liverpool.
It is marrying such attacking capabilities with the foundation of a strong defensive that has proved the making of Chelsea as much as the downfall of Manchester City and Liverpool.
The 2016/17 Premier League season has so far seen Chelsea concede just 21 goals, which sharply contrasts with 30 and 34, the tallies Manchester City and Arsenal have conceded respectively. This is so to say nothing of the 36 goals Liverpool have leaked.
The Stamford Bridge faithful would quickly raise the concern that with John Terry’s imminent departure and Kurt Zouma rumoured to be eager to go out on loan, that additional defensive cover is needed in south London.
Even Nathan Ake, despite his very impressive stint at Bournemouth before Christmas, appears outside Conte’s plans and could even go to Southampton as part compensation for Van Dijk.
Chelsea’s defence has been excellent this season, but clearly Conte is of the opinion that if the squad isn’t improving, it’s stagnating. Other Premier League coaches would be wise to take note.
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena