Arsenal's failure to sign Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk has killed their Premier League title challenge before it even begins, according to former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher. The Dutch defender was at the centre of a transfer saga in the summer window, but eventually stayed on the south coast despite numerous clubs displaying an interest.
The Gunners, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City were all credited with tracking the 26-year-old, who handed in a transfer request to force his way out of St Mary's. But despite his best efforts, Van Dijk remains a Saints player and is in the process of being reintegrated into Mauricio Pellegrino's first-team squad.
But while the latter trio all added to their defensive options, Arsenal only added free transfer Sead Kolasinac to their back-line – though the Bosnia and Herzegovina international will be deployed at full-back rather than at the heart of the defence. And having regularly been shown to have a soft centre, Carragher believes the north Londoners have missed a trick by not completing a deal for Van Dijk.
"Arsenal haven't improved at the back since last season," said Carragher, a 2005 Champions League winner, according to The Evening Standard. "If you want to be successful, you have to have a strong defensive unit. But that's what has let Arsenal down. Arsenal conceded 44 goals last season and that is far too many. You must aim to concede less than a goal a game, then that gives you a chance to challenge for the title.
"Just look at the last three champions: Chelsea last season [33 goals against], Leicester  and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in 2015 . This is why I was very surprised Arsenal didn't bring another centre-back in, especially as they are going to play three at the back a lot more.
"Arsenal and Chelsea wanted to sign Van Dijk. The £60-£70million fee talked about was an awful lot and shows there is a dearth of centre-backs. If you want a player of that quality, you have to pay it. If you don't, maybe you don't achieve the targets you have set for the club. Southampton didn't sell Van Dijk, but Chelsea still went and brought in Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen and added to what they had."
Arsene Wenger made just one other addition to his squad in the summer in the form of striker Alexandre Lacazette, who joined from Lyon. The France international has enjoyed an encouraging start to life at Arsenal with goals in two of his three Premier League starts, yet there still remains areas of weakness in the club's squad.