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Arsenal must let United get Vlaar and target Celtic star instead

| 20.10.2014

Recent reports link Arsenal with a move for centre-half Ron Vlaar, who is thought to be interesting Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, but with Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk also on the Gunners’ raider, they should leave the Aston Villa man to his former Holland coach.

Villa conceded more goals than any other Premier League side that beat the drop in each of Vlaar’s two full terms at the club, with Paul Lambert’s men steering clear of the relegation zone by just five points in both campaigns.

However, a decent World Cup from the 29-year-old in Van Gaal’s three-man Holland backline has seen Vlaar’s rating raised from occasional liability to granite-hewn defensive genius in some quarters.

It makes some amount of sense, therefore, that the ‘Iron Tulip’ would swoop for a player he clearly knows well, particularly considering the dreadful luck with injuries United have had since Van Gaal took over.

Be that as it may, recent reports suggesting Villa will demand £12m in January for a player whose contract runs out next summer must be wide of the mark, while Arsenal would be mad to pay even half that.

Vlaar may look good with two other centre-halves either side of him, but the stats during his time in the Premier League suggest the former Feyenoord man would be a poor partner for either Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker.

Bradford’s James Hanson would attest to as much, after the 6ft4in former supermarket shelf-stacker’s goal sent Villa packing from the Capital One Cup semi-finals in 2012/13.

Hanson suggested afterwards that the game plan was to target Vlaar, who’s no Lilyputian at just an inch shorter, in the air. A damning indictment indeed from a striker who was playing in League Two at the time.

If the Red Devils wish to pay £10m-plus on the back of one good summer, Arsenal should not compete with them and instead move for Vlaar’s compatriot Virgil van Dijk of Celtic, who’s six years younger and potentially cheaper.

Van Dijk is on the verge of breaking into Guus Hiddink’s Holland team after a cracking 2013/14 campaign in Scotland, where the former Groningen man notched five goals and was in Neil Lennon’s starting line-up for 11 matches of Celtic’s 12-game run of Scottish Premiership wins to nil.

Arsenal haven’t kept a home clean sheet in the Premier League so far this term, but against a Hull side they beat 2-0 and 3-0 in the top flight last season, an Emirates victory for the hosts without concession looks generous at 5/4.

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Alex Fortune