Italian U21 star has Arsene Wenger’s attention this Winter

With a first choice centre-half pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker possessing a combined age of over 61, Arsene Wenger knows he needs to start looking at future replacements sooner rather than later.

The signing of Gabriel in January was a clear signal of intention from the Arsenal boss, and the 24-year-old Brazilian has settled in well at the Emirates as a current understudy.

That doesn’t completely fill the void however and Wenger is evidently well aware of that with speculation arising this week that the Frenchman has his eyes on one of Italy’s finest young defenders.

Juventus moved fast two years ago to sign Empoli’s Daniele Rugani on a permanent deal after initially loaning the highly-rated Italian.

Since then the Old Lady have loaned Rugani back to Empoli, where the 21-year-old was a near ever-present with the Azzurri in 2012, helping them to promotion into Serie A that season.

Even more eye-catching for visiting scouts were Rugani’s performances last season.

The Lucca-born defender played every game as he played an integral role in Empoli’s very respectable 15th place, evading relegation by a comfortable eight points.

Empoli FC v AC Chievo Verona - Serie A

Rugani was an ever-present for Empoli last season

This campaign however has seen Rugani struggle to get regular football with Juventus, and he hasn’t been sent out on loan.

With Juve struggling this term, Rugani may have foresaw an opportunity, but now three months into the season it looks like his time in Turin is drawing to a close.

Rugani would offer Wenger four capable centre-halves at varying stages of their career, while also allowing the Gunners boss to build a team for the future with Gabriel and the Juventus man.

As ever, Arsenal aren’t the only team in the hunt and reports suggest Wenger will have to move fast to see off Napoli in the chase for the £13m-rated defender.

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