A loan spell at Rangers is giving 18-year-old midfielder Gedion Zelalem his first taste of regular professional football, and he is loving it.
The midfielder has made a couple of appearances for the Arsenal first team over the course of the last two years but is now ready to make a significant step up, hence his loan move to the Scottish giants.
Rangers sit comfortably top of the Scottish Championship and Zelalem, who has played for the club four times since completing his loan move, is relishing the chance to play in front of big crowds.
The youngster was stuck in the Arsenal u21 team for the last two seasons, so stepping out at Ibrox every other week is certainly a new challenge for him.
“This is very different,” the midfielder admitted in an interview with rangers.co.uk. “The pressure is really high, especially here where it’s maybe on you more than at other teams.
“There are 50,000 fans that will get on your back if you’re not performing well, so it is different pressure but it’s good for me.”
At the Emirates Stadium he will have the same pressure to perform, with Arsenal expected to win every game and fans fast to let you know if they aren’t enjoying a display. There’s no doubt that this Rangers spell should prepare him well for that.
Arsène Wenger has spoken about the loan system at length this summer, and warned that young players can stagnate when they reach an age where u21 football no longer challenges them. That’s why Arsenal have sent so many talents on loan this year and Zelalem is reaping the rewards.
“Having a crowd there is definitely a lot more motivation because in an under-21s game you can become quite complacent,” said the midfielder.
“That level is good for development when you are 16 or 17 but when you are 18 or 19 you have to push yourself to go out on loan and play first-team football.”
Now 18 and turning 19 in January, the time has certainly come for Zelalem to be playing regular football at a professional level, and he isn’t disappointing.