They are two of the club’s most promising youngsters, but, despite the fact that they have only just commenced their scholarship deals, Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley will be forced to watch their team-mates from the sidelines for at least the next two months.
It was revealed yesterday that both Zelalem and Crowley are set for lengthy spells on the sidelines after sustaining injuries during the U18’s defeat to Manchester United last weekend. Zelalem, who was poised to make his first-team debut in the Capital One Cup against West Bromwich Albion later this month, will miss ten to twelve weeks with an as yet unspecified injury, whilst Crowley’s ankle problem, which saw him substituted after just half an hour against United, has ruled the former Aston Villa midfielder out for the next ten weeks.
Both pieces of news will come as a huge blow to Arsenal ahead of their UEFA Youth League campaign, which gets underway with a trip to face Marseille next week, but, more pertinently, it is disappointing that both players will miss a significant part of a campaign in which the aim was for them to become embedded into the set-up at the club.
Both players will hope to return stronger from their injuries, but Crowley in particular will be disappointed to have been ruled out after making an impressive start to his Arsenal career. Their respective absences could be of benefit to Jack Jebb, who has yet to feature for the U21s so far this season, whilst schoolboy Chris Willock could become a key figure for the U18s in the interim.
The news concerning Zelalem and Crowley will certainly not help coach Steve Gatting’s preparations for the U21’s fixture against West Brom at Emirates Stadium tomorrow evening. With Serge Gnabry on international duty and several other players out injured or on loan, many members of the U18 side are likely to be included in the squad, whilst there is also the possibility that some first-team players, perhaps including new loan signing Emiliano Viviano, could be involved.