In Focus: Southampton target Gibson would not match Van Dijk’s aerial presence

According to reports in The Sun, Southampton are lining up a £30m move for Middlesbrough centre-back Ben Gibson as they look for a potential replacement for captain Virgil van Dijk.

What’s the word, then?

Well, Van Dijk finally handed in a transfer request on Monday following a summer of speculation surrounding his future on the south coast and The Sun says that Saints may now be forced to sell the Dutchman – who is a target for Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City – as they may not want to keep a player who could unsettle the squad.

Now The Sun says that Southampton are set to step up their interest in Gibson – who is very much in a similar mould to Jack Stephens rather than Van Dijk – as they see him as the perfect replacement for their skipper.

The 24-year-old enjoyed an impressive personal campaign in the Premier League last term despite Boro suffering an immediate return to the Championship, and even though they don’t want to sell their star man the report adds they could be tempted by a £30m offer for his services.

How good was Gibson last season?

He was very impressive.

Middlesbrough suffered relegation mainly due to their struggles to find the net rather than keeping the ball out at the other end – they conceded 53 goals in their 38 Premier League matches which was just five more than eighth-place Southampton.

The ever-present Gibson showed his defensive qualities by making 225 clearances and 57 interceptions, while he showed his confidence on the ball by successfully completing 17 of the 18 take-ons he attempted.

However, the 6’1″ centre-back isn’t quite as dominant in the air as Van Dijk having only won 60 of the 116 aerial duels he contested last term, compared to the Dutchman’s 96 in 17 fewer appearances.

Would he be a good Van Dijk replacement?

As we hinted at previously, Gibson certainly seems to be more similar to the man he could partner at St Mary’s this season, Stephens, who is the same height and a year his junior, rather than Van Dijk.

While there is no doubt that the 24-year-old could make an impression for Saints and get regular playing time at this level, it remains to be seen whether he has the aerial presence to effectively replace the Dutchman who has become such a key player for Southampton over the course of the last two seasons.