Arsenal

Arsenal can land £52m-rated Saliba partner who has “same attributes as Van Dijk”

Mikel Arteta wants to add a new defender to his squad this winter.

Mikel Arteta will be disappointed that his side failed to return to the top of the Premier League on Thursday night, after Arsenal were unable to breakdown West Ham United.

The game concluded 2-0 to the visitors, which was the Gunners’ first home defeat of the season in 13 matches.

With a title charge set to be guaranteed in the coming months, the boss will want to strengthen his squad, in particular his defensive department, which is slightly thin.

Arsenal transfers latest – Matthijs de Ligt
According to a recent report from The Athletic, Arsenal wants to prioritise the defence in the market, with the recruitment team admirers of Matthijs de Ligt.

The Dutch defender is valued at £52m – as per CIES Football Observatory – which is likely to be out of the Gunners budget this winter.

The club does want to recruit in January, but a loan move seems to be the most likely, with De Ligt looking more like a summer signing.

The left side of Arsenal’s backline has raised eyebrows at times over the last couple of seasons, and Arteta will be hoping that De Ligt can have a Virgil Van Dijk-like impact on his side, as when the Liverpool captain first joined the club, he slotted into left centre back and transformed the team.

However, according to Nathan Ake, the Gunners would be getting their own version of the ex-Southampton defender, as the current Bayern man has “got a lot of the same attributes as Van Dijk.” With that in mind, below is a table that compares De Ligt’s stats from the last year across the top European leagues to Van Dijk’s Premier League stats this season.

Firstly, the Dutch centre-backs are both tall, which makes them incredibly dominant in the air. Not only is this important when defending crosses into the box and when dealing with direct long balls, but it also makes them a huge threat in the opponent’s box from set pieces.

Usually, height and size make defenders sluggish, and it can eliminate some centre backs ability to defend 1v1 scenarios, but they are both fleet-footed, can recover quickly, and are extremely dynamic, to the point where attackers will not even attempt to dribble past them.

Furthermore, they both possess elite ball-playing ability and can progress the ball with ease using their pinpoint passing. Van Dijk is particularly known for his ability to play accurate diagonal long balls to Mohamed Salah on the right wing, and if De Ligt were to join Arsenal, he could recreate that by utilising his passing range to find Bukayo Saka.

The duo are also commanding leaders who provide reassurance to the backline, which in De Ligt’s case is highlighted by the fact he became Ajax’s youngest ever captain at the age of 19. His experience at the age of just 24 is often undermined

Overall, the signing of the Ajax Acadamy graduate would take the Gunners to a whole new level, and the prospect of a complete centre-back pairing would petrify Premier League attackers. However, funnily enough, De Ligt is the most similar player to William Saliba’s current partner Gabriel, according to FBref’s similar players model, which just makes him a better like-for-like replacement.

To have the Dutchman slotting in alongside Saliba – who has been dubbed “exceptional” for his fine form over the last year or so by his manager – could well represent a dream partnership as far as the north Londoners are concerned.

Although £52m is a large fee, it does seem almost like a bargain when you consider De Ligt’s vast skillset and leadership qualities, as well as his likeness to compatriot, Van Dijk.

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