by Nia Griffiths and Mosope Ominiyi
Gedion Zelalem is determined to get first team football, even if that means going out on loan next season.
The 18-year-old has featured 19 times for the Arsenal U21s this season and impressed recently for his national team, the USA, in a friendly match against Colombia. Now, the midfielder is eyeing a breakthrough into the Arsenal starting 11.
He featured in a cameo appearance during the Gunners’ FA Cup victory over Coventry City as they went all the way to Wembley and were victorious over Hull twelve months ago, and since then, Zelalem has continued his development in the youth squads.
In fact, the youngster said, “I have high expectations of myself and if I was to be starting week in, week out, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
With that being said though, along with the likes of fellow midfielder Dan Crowley and forward Alex Iwobi, Gedion sticks out like a sore thumb – appearing to be too good to be playing in the youth ranks. Although it would be a tough challenge to break into the first-team proper, especially with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky all desperate for regular minutes. Although you have to admire his self belief!
Fortunately, it seems he still has his feet on the ground, as he said, “I’m going to go back for pre-season and try to get into the first team and play some games. If I can do that, great. If not, I’ll look to get out on loan somewhere. It’s a dream come true to be at a club like Arsenal and I want to get into the first team this season, play minutes and start matches.”
Although loan moves aren’t a magic wand for first team football at Arsenal, they can get the player much needed experience and match time. They’ve been known to be successful in the past – just look at Francis Coquelin, who played at Charlton Athletic until half a year ago; Jack Wilshere, who we loaned to Bolton Wanderers in 2010; or Aaron Ramsey, who was loaned out to both Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City in 2010 and 2011.
If Zelalem’s willing to work hard for a place in the starting lineup, this can only be a good thing. Issues only start to arise when players believe they’re being wasted and jump ship, rather than put in the work to improve. At such a young age and with so much potential, it’d be a shame for Zelalem to quit so early into his Arsenal career but fortunately, it doesn’t look like this will be then case.