Despite holding onto their star player, Southampton will no doubt be concerned by the dip in form of Virgil Van Dijk. The Dutch defender was at the centre of one of the summer’s most enduring transfer sagas but Southampton stubbornly refused to grant the defender a dream move to Liverpool despite talk of a £70m bid and Van Dijk handing in a transfer request.
With Van Dijk a shadow of his former self, it looks as if Southampton would be better off cashing in on the disillusioned defender and reinvesting in the squad. But of course, with Van Dijk’s departure looking more and more inevitable and many newspapers even suggesting that a January move is likely, Southampton need to identify some suitable replacements quickly. The Galleon have highlighted five Premier League centre backs that could go some way to filling the Van Dijk-shaped void should he finally get his move to Anfield.
Winston Reid is one such option for Southampton, should the Kiwi defender be looking for a new challenge. It may be difficult to convince the Hammers to sell but should they manage that, they’d have an excellent defender on their hands. Reid is the New Zealand captain and has captained West Ham on a number of occasions too, evidence of his great leadership qualities. Once linked with Arsenal and Spurs, Reid is experienced at the highest level having plied his trade in England for over 7 years now. Another excellent athlete, Reid would be a great addition to the Saints’ backline. AF
Jonny Evans was the subject of major interest from both Manchester City and Arsenal this summer and if it weren’t for other transfers, could well have been playing for one of the two this season. The Northern Ireland international performed admirably at United, where he started, but it is at West Bromwich Albion where he has really flourished. Evans has become a solid defender under Tony Pulis, exhibiting all the characteristics that we expect from the experienced manager whilst also showing a real knack for reading the game too. This move could involve a fairly hefty transfer fee, perhaps over £25m, due to interest from other clubs, but I think Evans would be a really good replacement for Van Dijk. AF
Huddersfield’s Christopher Schindler is a man for all seasons. Defensively, Schindler is capable in all areas; strong in the air, fearless in the tackle and intuitive of danger. He is Huddersfield’s most complete defender, described by The Guardian as a “quietly authoritative central defender”. Backlines need aggressive, daunting presences to instill confidence but they also need defenders that work modestly in the shadows to steer the team towards efficiency. Schindler’s calmness is reminiscent of Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and his proven prowess in the season’s early stages mark him out as a realistic target for Southampton. JO
Federico Fernandez signed for Swansea in 2014 and since then has been quietly establishing himself as one of the most underrated defenders in the league. The Argentinian has 32 caps to his name and again possesses invaluable Premier League experience. Fernandez would likely be available for a minimal fee and could step straight into Van Dijk’s vacated place. Similarly to Van Dijk, Fernandez is an imposing aerial threat and would very much provide a like-for-like replacement should the Saints pursue him. AF
As the transfer window firmly shut for the summer, concern fell on the Burnley backline, minus a suitable replacement for the outgoing Michael Keane. The rise of James Tarkowski in Keane’s absence has rewarded Burnley manager’s Sean Dyche’s faith. Tarkowski currently sits in the top three for most duels won, clearances made and successful blocks this season – a figure unmatched by any other player in the Premier League. Despite his great form, Tarkowski is still a relative unknown and would probably still go for less than Keane, even if his form continues into the January window. Currently, Tarkowski looks like he would even be a great addition for teams challenging for Champions League places. JO