Zelalem and Gnabry poised to remain with first-team for Emirates Cup

There was so much going on at the Matchroom Stadium last night, as a spirited Arsenal XI fought their way back to draw 4-4 with Leyton Orient, that it was difficult to summarise everything succinctly, but one of the most significant sub-plots involved some of the youngsters who weren’t on show.

Of the eight players who travelled to Asia with the first-team squad, four of them: Chuba Akpom, Thomas Eisfeld, Kristoffer Olsson and Chuks Aneke, were involved last night, whilst the remaining quartet, consisting of Gedion Zelalem, Damian Martinez, Serge Gnabry and Ignasi Miquel, didn’t feature, suggesting that they will instead remain with the first-team for this weekend’s Emirates Cup fixtures against Napoli and Galatasaray.

There is also the possibility, meanwhile, that right-back Hector Bellerin could be involved in some capacity over the weekend following Spain’s exit from the UEFA U-19 European Championships, but it remains to be seen whether the 18 year old will be given extra time to rest following his international commitments.

Source: Masashi Hara/Getty Images AsiaPac

Source: Masashi Hara/Getty Images AsiaPac

It has been clear from the beginning of pre-season that Martinez and Miquel are two of the players who are closest to the first-team set-up, given the frequency with which they have trained with the senior side, but German youth internationals Gnabry and Zelalem will also receive additional chances to impress before the new campaign in the hope of earning a permanent promotion later this summer.

At first glance, Martinez and Miquel, provided there are no acquisitions in their respective positions, could be allocated a place in the first-team squad, with the Argentinian goalkeeper set to provide back-up to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, whilst Miquel, particularly in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen, will provide another option at centre-back, despite the fact that regular right-back Bacary Sagna has also been deployed in that position during pre-season.

Gnabry, too, could feasibly become a member of the squad, but he may first have to dislodge Ryo, with the Japanese youngster already officially part of the senior side. Manager Arsene Wenger spoke just last week about how he intends to keep Ryo at the club until January at least rather than sending him out on loan again, but, should Gnabry shine this weekend, then it is not beyond the realms of probability that the former Stuttgart player could usurp Ryo to provide a back-up option on the left flank.

Zelalem’s talent, meanwhile, is unquestionable following his composed displays in Asia, but, in terms of first-team options, he has the likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla in his way at present. Wenger is certainly not averse to deploying youngsters in the senior set-up at the age of 16, however, and, regardless of whether he is promoted this summer or not, the midfielder will certainly see some senior game time this season in the Capital One Cup and possibly beyond.

As for those who find themselves on the fringes, perhaps the most unfortunate is Chuba Akpom, with the striker, who, it must be remembered is still technically a second-year scholar, having scored four goals in as many matches during the Asia Tour only to find himself back in the U21s following the signing of Yaya Sanogo. If Akpom remains patient, however, he will get his chances and the England U19 international could still have a prominent role to play in the club’s Capital One Cup campaign this season.

Eisfeld impressed in patches during the Tour, but, at the age of 20, is not as young as some of his contemporaries, and appears to be in need of a loan spell that could dictate whether he succeeds at the club in the long-term or not. Aneke, meanwhile, was impressive during the draw with Orient last night, but, with the midfield situation at the club so congested, not just in the first-team but with regards to players coming through the ranks, may have to head on loan for the third season in succession, possibly to a Championship side this time around.

Olsson, too, possesses much talent but will probably have to be content with a run in the Capital One Cup, with the same situation probably applying to Isaac Hayden, whilst Nico Yennaris will go out on loan.

For the quartet of Martinez, Miquel, Gnabry and Zelalem, however, first-team promotion could be well within their grasp.



  1. Look forward to hopefully seeing Gnabry and Zelalem at the Emirates this weekend.

    Quick question. Gnabry… Is it pronounced G-nabry or is the G silent and it’s Nabry?

  2. Great article. Really glad to see players like Zelalem given the chance to step up so young, he really impressed me on the Asia tour. Gnarby I felt didn’t look at his best but I have seen enough of him to know he has great talent and fully expect him to be successful this premier league. I also hope Ryo enjoyed going back to Japan, I found it a culture shock just on holiday over there, it must be very hard for him to adjust. In any case he looks like he has skill and determination and those are the most important ingredients for success.
    I can’t wait to see the team come out for the Emirates cup, I personally think no matter how much we spend this summer, with youth coming through our ranks like these guys, we can remain confident of the future status of the club!

  3. With gervinho and arshavin going I see room for both gnabry and ryo. They can be the back up to walcott and podolski with cazorla and the ox both moving inside more and jack dropping back.

    I’m hoping its not the end of the road for aneke and eisfeld I am certain that aneke is capable of replacing diaby with eisfeld eventually replacing rosicky but there is a 3 way challenge for that spot with olsson and zelalem in particular looking favourite.

    I found it very interesting that arsenal.com listed zelalem as no.23 for each of the 4 matches but we could all see he played no.35. I think that has already been decided like miquel is no.20. I am expecting no.2 to go to gamez or bellerin.

    1. I don’t get what you see in Ryo really. What did he do in preseason that impressed you? He had been injured long term two seasons in EPL and he has been playing in two shit teams in a row too. Its not like he was doing really good either in the EPL.

      Yeah Gnabry on the other hand seems fine but he needs to get rid of going forward as much and try to be a playmaker like Navas, cazorla, pedro and those kind of wingers. Yeah cazorla play in the middle too I know.

      We are desperate after new established players. NO WAY will our youngsters last for a season when we have FAcup, CL, mickey mouse cup and EPL to play for. There MUST be players good enough to challenge for a spot out there who we can bring in for about 10-20M each.

      1. First he’s not fully fit Wenger risked playing him for the japanese crowd.
        second, Even the established players you want had to start somewhere. they had to be given chance to prove themselves thats why we have an award called young player of the year award.

      2. I didn’t see anything in pre season but I am not going on a couple of pre season friendlies. I am going on what arsene wenger sees in the lad. Also the coaches at feyernood and wigan who both want to sign him again.

      3. @sam source of him not being fully fit? because I didn’t see any sign of injuries. Just a lot of poor decision makings and thats not down to being fit or not. yeah they have to start somewhere but have you forgot that we need to stay in top 4 spot or what? we also needs to win something. The young players needs to deserve the chance not have that served to them like it in their contract or something.

        @atid you don’t really know what wenger see in him. The fact that he has been loaned out tells me wenger things he is not good enough for us rather than he is ready to play for us in the EPL if needed. He is nowhere close to challenge for a spot you described. He is like the last guy to play for us in the wings. Feynoord play in the dutch league which is shit. Wigan is in championship….. If clubs in the mid EPL or at least french or german league would have want him then thats another thing.

        I see nothing special in Ryo other than his speed.

  4. His name is Ryo and he dances on the sand
    Just like that river twisting through a dusty land
    And when he shines he really shows you all he can

  5. …oh ryo ryo dance across the rio grande…

    also i hope yennaris going on loan isn’t about putting him in the shop window…i love that kid…i hope he has a future at the club, maybe in defensive midfield or at right back

  6. Jeorge, I hope this isn’t an old question, but what is the status of Wellington Silva?
    He seems to have ‘come on’ during this pre-season, so I wonder if you think that the club will be able (permit permitting) to keep him and play him in our U21’s instead of farming him out again?

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