Zelalem’s USA exploits offer encouragement for his Arsenal future

Zimbio.com/ Phil Walter

Zimbio.com/ Phil Walter

The fact that Gedion Zelalem only has two competitive appearances to his name for the Arsenal first-team at the end of his second full season with the club just serves to emphasise the feats achieved by fellow midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere, who managed to break into the senior set-up at such a young age.

There have been concerns in some quarters, at numerous points over the past couple of campaigns, that Zelalem, a player tipped to emulate Fabregas and Wilshere’s spectacular breakthroughs, hasn’t quite been performing up to standard.

It is true that on some occasions games do tend to pass him by, whilst his tactical understanding of the game needs working on, as does his tendency to squander possession in dangerous areas.

There is, though, still much to be positive about with regards to Zelalem’s development. At just 18 years of age he has already made 34 appearances for the Arsenal U21 team and is still eligible to represent the club at that level for several more years.

Recently, Zelalem has been making something of an impact on the international stage as well. There had been a lengthy debate about which country the hugely promising youngster would represent at senior level, after he featured for both Ethiopia and Germany in youth fixtures. The almighty tussle looks to have been won by the United States, however, and Zelalem is currently representing the US at the U20 World Cup.

Zelalem hit the headlines this morning after he claimed an assist and performed some wonderful skills in a 4-0 victory over New Zealand. The skills were breathtaking, but his neat pass to set up a goal was a mirror image of some of the excellent through balls he has played for Arsenal in pre-season fixtures over the past couple of years.

Once he concludes his exertions with the national team, Zelalem will be given a period of rest, but, after that, the focus will return to his club career as he hopes to become increasingly involved in the first-team set-up at Emirates Stadium.

The youngster is officially part of Arsene Wenger’s squad, but, with a clutch of high-profile central-midfielders ahead of him in the first-team, he will inevitably have to be very patient for opportunities. The Capital One Cup, albeit a little later than may originally have been anticipated, could well be Zelalem’s chance to showcase what he can do in an Arsenal shirt. If he can replicate his displays at the U20 World Cup, then he may not have to wait too long before he is called upon again by Arsene Wenger.



  1. Zelalem still needs to develop physically and if he’s going to play CM then he needs to dictate games, those are the two things he’s really missing in my opinion.
    Still an amazing talent but we need to see how he develops in the next 2-3 years

  2. One of the reasons Zelalem has yet to break into the first-team setup when, at his age.Jack and Cesc had, is because we’ve never had such a squad filled with so much quality. When Jack was his age, we didn’t have the calibre of players ahead of him as Zelalem currently does. His time will come.

    1. Wilshere went on loan though, and proved hit worth. Fabregas had much competition and he performed wonderful when he got the chance. You should remember that the U21 performance also counts.

      I don´t think he will make it. Willock is looking better and is younger.

      1. We waited for Coq till now, sure u know how old he is. Gideon’s time will come, he has what he takes to be part of this team.

      2. Coq had a long wait till now, sure u know how old he is. Some players need more time to mature while some has early boom and prime. Gideon’s time will come, he has what it takes to be part of this team.

      3. @Shuppy

        Yes Coq took a long time too but he had been on loan in the highest division for a long time. He has always looked good in U18 and U21. We will have to see what Zelalem can do on loan before judging. Coq has had like 3 years on loan in the very highest level. Thats tons of experience.

        You have to remember Toral is playing in the championship right now. Our ex gunner Olsson who was about the same age is playing senior football too. We got one of the hottest prospect in Willock. Mailand-niles and crawley looked just as good. In my opinion Niles is better overall.

  3. t’s not lack of skills with Zelalem, it’s physical attributes. those two were physically more fit than him. also, he suffered a serious injury to his knee and was out for a long time. Arsene knows best and is protecting him. ‘his tactical understanding of the game needs working on’ ???? am laughing right now.

  4. Still not sure. I know he’s technically very complete (probably a huge factor when Wenger brings a youngster to train with the first team), but not only is the competition so tough in the first team (even Wilshere can’t seem to hold a starting spot), the competition at academy level seems just as tough, with the likes of Willock, Niles and Crowley. And I think Toral is a player easily forgotten about due to his years of injuries (if you consider injuries stunted his development, it means he could’ve been on loan to Brentford at the age of 18-19).

    Quite frankly, Zelalem has it tough. But it was a smart move picking the US tbh.

    1. Saying this, I wonder if he’s suffering from public perception, though may in fact be progressing, by playing in a deeper role?
      As in he’s clearly a better AM than he is a CM, but the move to CM is more to improve his defensive and physical game, which may mean a short time of not looking “as influential and as good” but in the long run in terms of development, will make him a better AM?

  5. I read all these comments about physicality, but there has been hundreds of players that are slightly built and have made massive marks in the game. Even players like Gerrard, ozil, xavi, iniesta, messi, giggs to name but a few have hardly been giants or built like brick outhouses.

    Playing in today’s game which is far less physical, is not out of zelalems reach, he just needs to gain the experience and the understanding of how to position himself to minimise or avoid impact from challenges.

    I am sure that once he takes a loan or two, he will gain what is missing.

  6. Personally he doesn’t have anywhere near enough impact on games. We can go on about physicality, but he is only playing at u18 & u21 levels. For a Central Midfielder he drifts in & out if games too often & goes missing at times.
    I’ve always been very impressed with Ainsley Maitland-Niles when seeing him & in my opinion at the moment Glen Kamara, Isaac Hayden & Dan Crowley are way ahead of him & although technically lacking when he plays in the Holding role George Dobson has far more influence on a game.

      1. Yes I certainly do. If you’re talking about mobility & the ability to make impact on games he is. On the many occasions I’ve watched Zelalem, he’s been far too quiet & gone missing in games.
        Can you tell me why you’re laughing so much ?

  7. I watched his game vs New Zealand. I thought he showed moments of class, and a good maturity for his age in the game, but NZ weren’t very good in my opinion so it’s too early to see if he will have what he takes at Arsenal. If he was playing back in 2010 I would have instantly said yes, but as others have mention midfield is a bit crowded with talent.

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