Zelalem puts in accomplished display again and Ryo scores as Arsenal beat Nagoya

Pre-season friendly

Nagoya Grampus 1 Arsenal 3 (Giroud, Ryo, Walcott)

There are times when a young player is provided with an opportunity in the first-team at an unusually early age and he looks instantly at ease. Think Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and, perhaps, now Gedion Zelalem.

The midfielder has received lavish praise for his performances thus far in the Asia Tour, and today, the 16 year old further enhanced his reputation by playing a superb ball through to Theo Walcott, who found the net to put Arsenal 3-0 up against Nagoya Grampus in their third pre-season fixture.

Zelalem also made a couple of other outstanding passes, and, welcomingly, demonstrated his ability to make well-timed tackles during his 45 minutes on the field. How much senior action he will receive during the forthcoming campaign is yet to be determined but, on these showings at least, he is doing his claims for inclusion no harm at all.

Source: Chris McGrath/Getty Images AsiaPac

Source: Chris McGrath/Getty Images AsiaPac

Arsene Wenger named a strong starting line-up for this fixture, with none of the eight youngsters involved from the off. There was, however, a run-out for Ryo Miyaichi, back in the town where he grew up, and the Japanese winger, despite not producing the best overall performance, did score his first Arsenal goal when he turned home a penalty with 26 minutes on the clock.

Prior to that, the Gunners had opened the scoring early on when Tomas Rosicky did well to find Olivier Giroud, who headed in his sixth goal of pre-season. Ryo then placed a shot just wide, but didn’t have long to wait to get on the scoresheet after the lively Giroud was brought down in the area.

Ryo was allowed to take the penalty and dispatched it with aplomb, before Walcott twice fired over when well-placed before the interval.

The second half saw the introduction of two German youth internationals in Zelalem and Serge Gnabry. Whilst the latter made some good runs, it was Zelalem who again took centre stage with his ability to retain possession with ease and play defence-splitting passes for his team-mates to run onto.

Perhaps he is not physically ready for the intensity of the Premier League just yet, but he should certainly be able to emulate Wilshere and feature in the League Cup as a 16 year old. There are times when you can be accused of putting too much pressure on a young player, but with Zelalem it is simply impossible to ignore his immense potential.

Gnabry had a couple of moments, too, cutting inside and firing just wide, but Walcott’s finishing was largely wasteful until the picture-book moment when he was expertly found by Zelalem before making it 3-0.

Arsenal threatened to increase the scoreline further still, with Kieran Gibbs seeing his shot hit the side-netting, whilst Wilshere, who completed 45 minutes as he stepped up his comeback, also came close.

Chuks Aneke and Chuba Akpom were then introduced, with Aneke finally receiving an opportunity to play in his preferred central-midfield role, having previously been deployed at centre-back on this tour. The 20 year old helped Arsenal to retain possession and made one good interception, but Akpom failed to receive much service up front and squandered the sole opportunity that came his way, with Zelalem, unsurprisingly, the architect once more.

Just prior to that, Nagoya had scored what proved to be a consolation goal, with Lukasz Fabianski being beaten by a header from Kisho Yano, to the delight of most of the supporters in the stadium. Damian Martinez, Kristoffer Olsson and Thomas Eisfeld, meanwhile, remained un-used substitutes throughout.

Arsenal held on for victory, however, and, amongst the several plusses to be taken from this fixture, one of the most paramount will again be the performance of Gedion Zelalem.



  1. Zelalem is definitely in that bracket. I would say at a level slightly higher than jack was at the same age but not quite where cesc was. His slighter frame may go against him but hos vision and awareness is beyond his years. I predict some first team activity for the lad. If he can develop over the next few months physically he will stay here. If not he will see some action elsewhere though I am unsure if he is ready for the cloggers in the football league or stoke!

    1. That seems to be his forte at present, his maturity and ofcourse his vision. Skill wise we have players at least on par with him (personally feel olsson is the stand out in this regard) but his intelligence sets him apart. His performances in preseason easily exceeded my expectations but I imagine he exceeded most expectations. Having said that anyone else find it worrying that we are pretty ineffective from the wide areas. Theo despite his poor finishing has been the main supply but gnabry would probably need a loan seeing as he’s currently inconsistent. I guess I’m concentrating too much on wing play as I’m pretty massive fan of wingers with flair though so may be my bias coming into play!

    2. If you need a reminder wilshere at 16

      that’s not even as good as his next game, when he dominated wigan – a PL team. Lets wait and see if zelalem does that

      1. Seeing that video is more proof that Jack’s regressed technically since his injury. He look much stronger and more explosive now, but has lost some of his agility as well. As far as his technique, hopefully he gets some of that back over next few years.

  2. Zelalem is a natural, exciting, special talent. what a joy to watch. very intelligent player as well. arsenal should however wait before introducing him to the physicality of the epl. let him grow stronger muscles before that as they will kill him there!

  3. Hopes he bulks up. Cesc was also rather small at that age, he went on a milk based catalan diet. Zalalem definitely has the ability and presence to be a star. His play is like Cesc, play it simple but, with great vision and movement. All the best to him and Arsenal future.

  4. He keeps impresses me. If he keeps do this in the emirates cup then I will start saying he is our next cesc fabregas. Olsson is another one who I think is also very exciting. If both impress in the emirates cup then we are fucking lucky! Dan Crawley looks fine too. If Toral and Jebb also start being impressive ….. I don’t know what the hell we are going to do. We won’t be able to keep all of them here once other clubs start chasing them.

    Aneke got some fears competitions. I don’t think he will make it.

    1. if aneke changes position to a holding midfielder, but in the toure/Vieira mould he could still have a bright future, he is only just 20 but he needs to push on this year, show some desire and from what I have seen in the past compared to this tour he appears fitter and showing more mobility.

      1. I don’t know man… I don’t think he covers a lot of ground. Zelalem can play deeper and make those final balls easy. Olsson is great in tight areas and has also great mobility and covers a lot of ground when he play. Aneke needs to get 45 min vs any team in preseason to show something. Hopefully in the emirates cup but I can’t see that happen.

  5. Gedion is an amazingly talented boy, his vision, movement on and off the ball, ability to see a pass no one else is thinking about on the pitch sets him apart. I think if he has the talent he is ready, though he needs to bulk up for the EPL. i just love to watch him, i have gone back to watch all his highlights prior to the tour and his intelligence is light years above his age, he is exceptional talent, one of a kind, and a massive asset to the Gunners in the future, keep up the good work boy!!!1

  6. Those who said he was another average foreign kid taking the chance off an equally talented Brit have gone very quiet, haven’t they? Funny, that.

  7. wrenny – seems your part of the usual dumb johnson and johnson hype merchants on here
    happy to see another foreign player stroll into the first team on the back of performances against Vietnam / Indonesia and Nagoya. When he fails to perform in Europe where Arsenal play their competitive games then all of a sudden hes crap. Hyping a 16 year old is stupid illogical and childish and reflects badly on those making them.

    1. My only hope is that one of Zelalem, Olson, Eisfeld, Ox, or Aneke (or a big signing like Luis Gustavo or Bernard) come into the first team to replace Aaron Ramsey.

      Arsenal’s one-and-only Charity Case played well for the last 8 weeks of the season and was indiscernible from Gervinho as he put in some of the worst performances ever seen in an Arsenal shirt for the first 6 months of the season.

      I would love for our youngsters to step up and make the much needed improvement on Ramsey, but unlike this clown above, I could care less what nationality they are. All I care is they compliment the other talented midfielders we have and replace the over-rated Ramsey.

    2. your name is ‘sunill’ and you talk about a ‘foreign player bla bla bleu’??? the irony!!! your stupidity is beyond comprehension. r u even an arsenal fan??? whichever team you are supporting would give the world to have a talent like zelalem play for them. u’r a hater and a retard

  8. The boy has talent but he is just a boy and should be taken care off. Alot could go wrong he needs to keep working, bulk up (should happen naturally) and work on other areas of his game….. but having said that his passing and composure on the ball was very special indeed his leggy manner reminded me of Viera and his passing like Cesc …. but lets keep the hype down he is very young.

    I hope he fulfills his talent and becomes a legend for the Gunners 🙂

  9. I think Gnabry is definitely ready for a loan at a good level. He is quite a bulky fella and I think he would handle himself quite well against more physical opponents.

    I reckon Zelalem will benefit from a year or so of playing with the U21s and training with the first string, learning bits and bobs from Santi

  10. Jeorge, have we completed the signing of that Spanish kid from Barcelona, the one whose name I won’t attempt, the defender…
    How do you rate him?

    1. was going to ask jeorge that myself but some guy on twitter informed jeorge that he played against qpr u18s and was apparently the best player on the pitch as arsenal won 2-0 (iwobi scored both)

  11. Ryo and Gnabry appear both to be a little injury prone, so I would prefer to see their development at Arsenal and not on loan

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