With some older members of the first team squad set to move on this summer, there could be an opening in the Arsenal setup: will Dan Crowley or Gedion Zelalem be offered the chance to impress?
According to various reports, Arsenal are set for a fairly heavy revamp in the summer. Ageing midfielders Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky are all set to leave the club as their contracts expire while doubts have surfaced over the futures of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey. There are fitness concerns for Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla.
Just as Alex Iwobi has forced his way into Arsène Wenger’s first team plans, all this means there could be opportunities for Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley. We’ve seen both players feature in pre-season before and Zelalem has even made FA Cup and Champions League appearances for Arsenal from the bench, but what’s next?
Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph recently reported that Zelalem would be given the chance to break into Wenger’s plans during the summer:
“Zelalem, who is 19 and on loan at Glasgow Rangers, will be given an opportunity to establish himself in pre-season.”
The young midfielder has impressed with Rangers, who have won promotion to the Scottish Premier League. Zelalem can play in a couple of midfield positions and would be an ideal candidate for the Arsenal squad. Eager to learn and improve, he would back himself to make the step up.
Then there’s Dan Crowley. Recently, the 18-year-old has been impressing for the Arsenal under 21 side again, where he flourished last season. The Daily Mail claim he could be fast-tracked into the first team squad next season as Arsenal sell off homegrown talent and have spaces available in midfield.
Crowley was on loan at Barnsley earlier in the campaign and impressed their fans and manager Lee Johnson before Arsenal recalled him. At the time the Gunners were struggling with injuries, but Crowley only ever featured for the youth sides after returning: perhaps he was brought back as Alex Iwobi’s replacement while the Nigerian pushed on into Wenger’s squad?
Regardless, both players will now be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Iwobi but there is unlikely to be enough space for both of them. Arsenal’s current senior midfield options, not including the players whose contracts are expiring, include Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Aaron Ramsey. Santi Cazorla hasn’t played since November and Jack Wilshere hasn’t played a first team game all season.
There is, of course, also Alex Iwobi himself.
Should the Gunners look to move more midfielders on this summer, a senior player will have to come in. Even if we don’t sell anyone a senior midfielder should come in, due to the injury record of Wilshere and current problems (including age) faced by Cazorla. With that in mind, Arsène Wenger may have space for one youngster in his squad but squeezing Crowley and Zelalem in, and developing them sufficiently, seems unlikely.
Based on their reputations and how their careers have gone so far you’d have to say, heading into the summer, Zelalem has the advantage.