Starlet Gedion Zelalem excelling on Arsenal tour

Gedion Zelalem Jack WilshireArsenal looked impressively fit during their 3-1 win over Nagoya Grampus on Monday. The training has been intensive and after run-outs against opposition that provided little in the way of a challenge, it was good to see the team looking so sharp.

Olivier Giroud continued his fine preseason with another good goal, but the story of the Asia tour is the emergence of youngster Gedion Zelalem. Discovered by North American scout Danny Karbassiyoon, the Germany U16 international (parents are from Ethiopia) was fast-tracked onto the tour, and has caught the eye in every appearance.

His calmness on the ball is really something, as is his ability to see openings. Many players can spot the run of a teammate, but few can find the right pass with such precision and weight. It’s a dangerous comparison to make, because there’s a tendency to over-hype young players, but it’s little wonder that people are mentioning him in the same breath as Cesc Fabregas.

The Catalan’s potential was obvious, from the very first game he played for the club, and it’s hard to ignore what Zelalem has been doing on the pitch. You can qualify it by playing down the quality of the opposition, but that misses the point. There are established, senior players not doing what he does, and although he’s some way from the first team just yet, his name is written in bold (and underlined) in the “ones to watch” column.

Arsenal are always keen to play down hype over young players. Arsene Wenger famously referred to Johan Djourou as “He who must not be named” when the Swiss arrived at the club, but sometimes a player’s performances make that practically impossible. The buzz around Zelalem is based on his performances, not his potential, and he’s showing why he’s so highly regarded by the Arsenal coaching staff, who have been raving over him since his arrival.  Read more

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