By Russell Edge

20th Apr, 2017 | 2:34pm

Arsenal plot to hijack Chelsea mega-money transfer as Wenger looks to emulate Conte - reports

By Russell Edge

Arsenal are set to join a host of clubs challenging for the signing of Southampton centre back Virgil van Dijk, according to a report.

The Daily Mirror claims the north London club will look to go head to head with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool for the signing of the 25-year-old Dutch defender.

They claim that Chelsea are in pole position for van Dijk but that Arsenal are plotting to hijack the move.

The news comes following reports that Arsene Wenger is looking to implement a 3-4-3 formation going forward.

The formation is a change from the four at the back which Wenger has utilised for much of his 21-year long stint at Arsenal, but the French manager is supposed to be impressed with the way his team performed under the new tactics in their 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.

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Antonio Conte switched to a back three after a poor start to the season and his side are now favourites for the title, sitting four points ahead of Tottenham with six games to play.

If the change of mindset from Wenger were to be permanent, it would require more squad depth in defence than the Gunners currently possess.

With Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Per Mertesacker the club’s recognised centre backs, Wenger is ready to strengthen his defence and splash out on one of the Premier League’s hottest properties

However van Dijk would not come cheap and is rated at £50m by Southampton.

Football Insider verdict:

Virgil van Dijk to Arsenal is a move which on paper makes a lot of sense. If Arsene Wenger is moving to using three at the back, then the domineering Dutchman would be a good fit to shore up a shaky back line. One of the most confident and reliable centre-backs in the Premier League, van Dijk would improve nearly any side he stepped in to. The question is would Arsenal be the right fit for him? Whilst he would be a nearly guaranteed starter for the Gunners, their disappointing 2016/17 season may put him off. With higher placed clubs circling for his signing, and with no guarantee of Champions League football next season, van Dijk might be tempted to say no to the Emirates.

In other Arsenal transfer news, the Gunners are facing competition from a fellow Premier League side for a top Bundesliga defender.

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