Zelalem gains first-team recognition but physicality provides a concern

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Promising midfielder Gedion Zelalem  trained with the Arsenal first-team squad again at London Colney this morning as Arsene Wenger’s side made their final preparations for tomorrow’s Champions League Last 16, 2nd leg tie with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

It is not the first time that Zelalem has trained with the senior side, despite still technically being a schoolboy, and it certainly won’t be the last. The 16 year old, who is eligible to play for Ethiopia but has represented Germany at U15 and U16 levels, is regarded within the club as a prodigious talent, although the coaching staff have been wary not to thrust him into the U18 side at club level owing to some concerns over his slender frame.

Zelalem (right) was born in January 1997
Zelalem (right) was born in January 1997

Having officially completed his move to the club at the start of the season, Zelalem began the campaign in fine form for the U16s but, as opponents wised up to his technical wizardry, he soon became a target for opposition defenders, with the youngster on the receiving end of several crunching challenges, culminating in a series of niggling injuries that somewhat slowed his progress.

Despite this, it is still likely that Zelalem will make his competitive U18 debut before the end of the season, where he will seek to showcase his undoubted talent prior to the commencement of his scholarship at the start of next season.

In addition to Zelalem, centre-back Ignasi Miquel, who was rested as the U21s beat Southampton at Underhill last night, also took part in the training session this morning, but the Spaniard is unlikely to make the trip to Germany with Kieran Gibbs having recovered from injury.

Jack Wilshere will miss the game with an ankle problem, whilst Bacary Sagna is also out, meaning that Carl Jenkinson will continue at right-back. Abou Diaby, meanwhile, should return to the squad having trained this morning, whilst goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has been left at home, perhaps owing to his poor form of late, and will be replaced by Lukasz Fabianski. Nacho Monreal is ineligible to feature having already played in the Champions League this season for previous club Malaga. Lukas Podolski (ankle) is also out.

Possible team:

Fabianski

Jenkinson-Mertesacker-Vermaelen-Gibbs

Arteta-Diaby

Walcott-Rosicky-Cazorla

Giroud

subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Arshavin, Coquelin.

Out- Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Monreal, Wilshere, Podolski.

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8 thoughts on “Zelalem gains first-team recognition but physicality provides a concern

    atid said:
    March 12, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    i personally think mannone will get the nod after being very patient. i would also like to see koscielny in for mertesacker as bayern do not really pose too much threat in the air more on the ground where per shows his weakness.

    True gunner said:
    March 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Arsenal need a Sweeper/goalkeeper, a keeper that can defend, Szczesny go to the ground too easily. Today’s keepers don’t know how to defend. Arsenal need a keeper 6ft 3in or taller with great reach, good agility and defensive skills.

    Matthew said:
    March 12, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I think we’re gonna miss Wilshere in midfield. If the Rosicky from the end of last season and he Diaby from earlier this season we might, just might be able to get through. Fabianski should start imo. When Szczesny broke into the starting line-up, then before it was Fabianski who was the keeper ahead of him. Unluckily for him Fabianski’s had lots of injury problems.

    This Zelalem kid seems to be getting lots of recognition from the media, hopefully he can live up to the hype.

      gunner17 said:
      March 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      fabianski had a solid run of games for us before his injury…i would personally like to see him play ahead of mannone AND szczesny…fabi should be our no.1

      Wrenny said:
      March 13, 2013 at 12:24 am

      In my opinion Fabianski has always been more talented than Szczesny but one has tremendous confidence and one doesn’t, one thrives under pressure while the other has crumbled under it many times. Fabianski’s mentality is well behind his ability. He might have turned it around when he had that great run in the team back in 10/11 but then injury struck and he’s been struggling for fitness ever since.

    Jom said:
    March 12, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Hopefully he can stay away from long term injury.. Henderson and Murphy had a hard time with that and they are now far from any high level of play which is sad.

    And why leave Szcesny home? Then surely Mannone is the man.

    Wrenny said:
    March 15, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    What a game that was from Fabianski, eh? Wenger says he has had a mental transformation. No kidding, it looked like a personality transplant! Fantastic confidence and he was talking to the defenders throughout. I hope he and Koscielny keep their places.

    Valentin said:
    March 16, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Is that the same issue with Tomas Eisfeld, Olson?
    Very good technically and good vision, but lack the physical strength to cut it in the premiership.
    I have noticed that a lot of our players have been victim of ridiculous tackles and for some those injuries have destroyed any chance they may have had to forge a career at Arsenal. Conor Henderson who is in his last year at Arsenal, is a perfect example.
    In some case, it is just a question of bad luck and nasty opponents, but there are numerous instances where our players seem to lack self preservation. Ryo was the victim of a ridiculous tackle, however he saw it coming and he did not even attempt to ride over.
    Maybe this is something that the coaches need to train our players for. Not to refuse any 50/50 ball or to fight, but to know when and how to avoid potential career ending situation.

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