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.