With Bacary Sagna confirmed as a Manchester City player for next season, Arsenal’s hunt for a new right-back is officially on.
The possibility that the Frenchman would leave loomed heavily at the Emirates throughout last season, and the Gunners were paired with a slew of potential replacements in anticipation.
One of those linked was 22-year-old Sime Vrsaljko, who arrived at Genoa last summer with a big reputation in his native Croatia and impressed in his debut campaign at Marassi.
The big question surrounding a potential move to Arsenal is whether the youngster - whilst highly-rated - is far along enough in his development to take over for the veteran Sagna.
Vrasaljko’s agent, Beppe Riso, seems to think he’s ready to make the leap to the next level.
He told Pianeta Genoa 1893 this weekend: “Sime has done very well and it’s normal to be sought by important clubs.
“Is he ready for a big club? Probably yes, I believe that he’s ready for the international stage.”
Vrsaljko faced a massive test of his mettle against Brazil on Thursday. The stage doesn’t get much bigger than playing the Selecao in their homeland in the World Cup, and his performance can certainly be used to assess his readiness to make the next step in his club career.
The versatile Croatian faced the unenviable task of lining up at left-back opposite Oscar - instead of his natural right-back role - and turned in a solid, if unspectacular shift.
Defensively, Vrasaljko chipped in with three interceptions, two ball recoveries and a single tackle - managing to limit himself to two fouls despite taking on the tricky Oscar.
|Team||Pos||Won Tackle||Interception||Ball Recovery||Fouls||Error Lead To Shot||Apps||Mins|
He had his hands full with the Chelsea man but did well enough to block two crosses, and didn’t commit any notable errors.
But Brazil’s attacking pressure meant that Vrsaljko had precious few, if any, chances to show what he can do going forward. In 90 minutes, he was unable to produce an accurate cross or create a goalscoring opportunity.
|Team||Pos||Accurate Cross||Ontarget Att Assist||Apps||Mins|
At the very least, Vrsaljko looked composed. In what was just his third competitive international appearance and a massive occasion against a top opponent, he kept his head and gave a good account of himself.
As for the links to Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and company will have at least two more group stage games to evaluate Vrsaljko before deciding whether an offer is merited - if they’re genuinely keeping an eye on him.
With a decent display against Brazil under his belt, Vrsaljko should have more freedom to show his all-around talents against Cameroon and Mexico - and confrim his agent’s contention that he’s ready for a big club at 22-years-old.