Kurt Zouma
Kurt Zouma (Centre) is a target for Arsenal and Chelsea. Reuters

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is preparing a move in signing highly rated France U21 international Kurt Zouma in January, according to the Daily Mirror.

The report states that Wenger sees the talented St Etienne centre-back as a future prospect after receiving strong recommendations from the club's French scout Gilles Grimandi. The 19-year-old is sought as a long-term replacement for Thomas Vermaelen who finds himself relegated to the bench.

Due to injuries at the start of the season followed by the establishment of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny as first choice defenders, the Belgian has started only one league game this season. The 28-year-old feels his chances to be a part of the Belgium World Cup squad would diminish if he does not get regular opportunities in the first team and could leave in January.

The north London club could face competition for Zouma's signature as Jose Mourinho is also believed to be interested in the Frenchman. Chelsea already have three central defenders in John Terry, Gary Cahill and David Luiz and have managed just five clean sheets in the league this season.

The Brazilian international has found limited opportunities under the former Real Madrid manager and could be tempted to leave in January. The Express reports that Barcelona are interested in signing Luiz to bolster their defence and could be an ideal replacement for ageing and injury prone Carles Puyol.

The Mirror reports that any move from either Arsenal or Chelsea could see them spend £12m for Zouma's services in January. He was promoted to the first team by manager Christophe Galtier in 2011 and had earlier expressed his desire to remain with the French outfit for one more year.

The centre-back signed a new contract with the club in February 2013 and his deal with the Ligue 1 outfit runs out in 2017. Zouma still remains one of Europe's hot prospects after his performances helped France win the U20 World Cup this year.

In a league match against Sochaux, Zouma's tackle caused Thomas Geurbert to be stretchered away with a double fracture in his right leg. The tough tackling Frenchman is now ineligible to play until the end of the January after being handed a 10-match ban by the French Football Federation in November.