It was whilst he was playing for a club with Rangers in their name that Gedion Zelalem first came to Arsenal’s attention and now, having joined Scottish side Rangers on loan initially until January, he will be looking to make the club’s coaching staff take notice of his performances once more.
It has been quite a journey for Zelalem, who has developed well since joining Arsenal from Olney Rangers in 2012. There have been numerous ups and downs in the ensuing period, with the major highlights undoubtedly being his two senior appearances for the Arsenal first-team so far.
Now, having amassed considerable experience of U21 football, he will be seeking to prove that he is able to compete on a bigger stage. The Scottish Championship might not be the most high-profile league, but Rangers, with their renowned supporters, remain one of the most recognisable clubs in Europe.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton has a good track record of working with young players from his time at Brentford, and his preferred style of play should suit Zelalem perfectly.
The United States youth international midifelder sampled the Ibrox atmosphere for the first time yesterday as he attended Rangers’ game with Hibernian and he also trained with his new team-mates this morning. If all goes well, Zelalem could play a part when Rangers take on Airdrieonians on Wednesday.
It was clear during the opening U21 game of the season against Fulham that Zelalem is one of Arsenal’s brightest talents at that level and, although he has some improvements to make physically, he should learn much from his stint with Rangers.
Having seen Dan Crowley and Ainsley Maitland-Niles get off to flying starts with their loan spells this season, Zelalem will be seeking to do likewise. He has come in for some criticism for failing to be heavily involved in matches, but the youngster, who is still only 18, is renowned for his penchant of unlocking defences with precise through-balls.
Of late Zelalem also seems to have started to pay greater attention to the defensive side of the game. He now closes players down much more readily than he did previously, whilst his tactical awareness has always been superior to most of his colleagues at youth level.
Zelalem reportedly turned down offers from several Championship clubs to join Rangers, and he will be seeking to prove that he made the right decision in linking up with Warburton’s team. His journey so far has been intriguing to watch as he has developed physically, whilst continuing to make good use of his undoubted technical gifts.
Now the hope is that he can impress sufficiently at Rangers to earn a chance of receiving even greater opportunities in the future.