It had always been clear that Gedion Zelalem was a terrific talent owing to his calmness on the ball and ability to find his team-mates with ease, but yesterday, in his first appearance for the senior side, the 16 year old demonstrated just why he has been referred to as one of the most precocious talents in recent years.
Whilst many of his fellow new first-year scholars were making their debuts for the U21s in a friendly away to Sutton United on Friday evening, Zelalem was travelling to Asia with the senior squad, something which itself wasn’t too much of a surprise given the regularity with which Arsene Wenger has selected the Germany U16 international to train with the first-team.
After finally being granted permission to play in England last season, Zelalem, who was spotted by Arsenal scouts whilst playing for Olney Rangers in America, featured four times for the U21s towards the end of last season, but, after shining on his debut against Liverpool, failed to catch the eye in his other three outings.
Yesterday, however, he looked immediately at ease after being introduced as a second-half substitute against an Indonesian XI, was comfortable in possession and played one stupendous, outside-of-the-boot pass to find Thomas Eisfeld that could be described as a genuine show-stopping moment, whilst his overall performance was highly commendable.
There will be much tougher challenges to come, however. Zelalem does require some improvement in his physicality, but that will no doubt come in time. Furthermore, when he was closed down during those aforementioned U21 fixtures, the youngster found it difficult to play the correct passes, which is something he will have to learn to cope with when he comes up against more experienced defenders.
The general situation concerning Zelalem, however, can be deemed to be rather positive. Much of the mystique that surrounded his arrival has now worn off and it is clear to all that he is indeed a very promising player for the future. Whether he will follow the example set by Jack Wilshere and become part of the first-team squad whilst still a first-year remains to be seen, but, regardless, he will certainly feature in the Capital One Cup this season, and, depending on his progress, could be involved in further competitions, too.