Arsenal have been dealt a significant blow in the race to sign Croatian full-back Šime Vrsaljko, with Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini re-iterating his desire to see the player remain at the club in January.

21-year-old Vrsaljko, who only joined the Serie A outfit from Dinamo Zagreb in July, has impressed during the early stages of his burgeoning career at Stadio Luigi Ferraris and it is believed that long-serving Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has been an admirer of the defender since his days in the Prva HNL.

According to the Daily Express, the experienced Frenchman even dispatched scouts to monitor the player's performance during Croatia's disappointing 2-1 loss to Belgium in their penultimate World Cup qualifier on Friday night.

Wenger could well be Vrsaljko - who is reportedly valued by the Italian press at around the £12.5 million mark -  as a potential replacement for compatriot Bacary Sagna, with the 30-year-old's current contract at the Emirates Stadium set to expire next summer and no new deal having yet been agreed.

However, if Arsenal are serious about moving for the Croatian when the transfer window re-opens for business in the new year, it appears as if they will face a significant battle to prise him away Genoa.

"They [Arsenal] want him, but this January? We need all our players available. It is important everyone stays together," Gasperini told Sky Sports Italia in an interview that was quoted by the Daily Express.

Arsenal, who have enjoyed a fine run of form of late after bouncing back from a humiliating opening day defeat to Aston Villa, currently sit top of the Premier League having amassed 16 points from their subsequent six fixtures.

They return to action following the recent international break at home to Chris Hughton's Norwich on Saturday afternoon.

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