A star is emerging for the Gunners in the Far East. Forget Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney. The sparking debut of a 16-year old midfielder with American ties is the most exciting development of the summer for Arsenal supporters.
Gedion Zelalem was born in Germany to an Ethopian father and was spotted by Arsenal scouts two years ago while playing for Olney Rangers Soccer club in Maryland. Upon arriving in North London, Zelalem completely skipped over the Arsenal under-18 team and jumped right into the reserves. His surprise inclusion in Arsene Wenger’s first-team squad for the club’s Asian tour has been validated by two impressive outings against the Indonesia Dream Team and Vietnam. Take a look:
Video 1 (Indonesia Dream Team):
Video 2 (Vietnam):
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Zelalem’s game is his vision. He has a remarkable ability to recognize the runs being made by his teammates and react quickly with an accurate through ball. Additionally, Zelalem’s composure on the ball is astounding given his age. Comparisons have already been made to Cesc Fabregas who possessed similar skills when he made his debut for the senior team in 2003 at age 16.
And Arsenal supporters should not be alone in their joy over Zelalem. According to an article published by The Washington Post last year, the 16-year old is trying to secure a U.S. passport, which would make him eligible to play for the red, white and blue of the USA. He has been involved in both the German and American youth systems, and his father is from Ethopia; so a big decision looms ahead for Zelalem.
In the meantime, Zelalem will need to get stronger, as his body is not currently equipped to fend off Premier League defenders (See 1:40 in the first video above). Of course, that will come as he gets older; and, barring a major injury bug (not uncommon at Arsenal), Zelalem will not need to play a major role this season. Arsene Wenger, if history is any evidence, will likely ease the young midfielder into the first team squad by way of the Capital One Cup.
Though he is a highly-rated young player, Arsene Wenger — and indeed the club as a whole — have been mum on Zelalem in an apparent effort to avoid the trap of high expectations. However, if he continues to shine on the pitch, Gedion Zelalem will force his way into the spotlight.