Gedion Zelalem, Midfielder
Weight: 140 lbs
Place of birth: Stuttgart, Germany
Gunners supporters have spent most of this summer’s transfer window lamenting the lack of acquisitions Arsene Wenger has been able to secure for the club. The North Londoners have seen repeated bids for Luis Suarez turned away, rumors of a coup for Wayne Rooney shot down, and have been teased time and time again with talk of a Cesc Fabregas return. For a moment though, forget the money being splashed by PSG and Monaco in France, or even the noise being made by Premier League rivals Manchester City, what if Arsene Wenger’s most brilliant move this summer has been his ability to keep quiet on Arsenal’s latest development?
Enter Gedion Zelalem. At just 16 years old, Zelalem’s name is already being mentioned from bar stools outside the Emirates, all the way up to the boardrooms of some of the world’s top clubs. The German-born starlet of Ethiopian descent, who had been playing in the United States since he moved there with his family in 2006, has cast himself into the spotlight with his recent performances on Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Asia. Many would have been shocked with Zelalem’s inclusion in Wenger’s 24-man squad for the trip to the Far East, but not those who have been following the young midfielders meteoric rise carefully.
Zelalem has already displayed an excellent first touch and ball control, but perhaps his greatest asset is his vision and awareness. The youngster is quickly showing the ability to not just pick out the runs of his senior teammates, but deliver picture perfect passes as well. His first play in Asia that opened eyes was a pretty outside of the foot pass for Thomas Eisfeld, against Indonesia. Zelalem followed up with a perfectly weighted ball for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that resulted in a tap-in goal against Vietnam. On Monday, Zelalem struck again, this time with a sublime through ball for Theo Walcott against Nagoya Grampus of Japan. Twitter is already exploding over Zelalem, and most recently he is rumored to have applied for a U.S. passport, perhaps his national team aspirations include playing under Jurgen Klinsmann with the Stars and Stripes.
Let’s recap. Zelalem officially inks with the Gunners last January and starts training with the first team, he then bypasses Arsenal’s U-18 youth team, instead making appearances for the U-21 squad. Yes, he’ll definitely have to bulk up if he’s going to survive among the physicality of the Premier League, but let’s not forget we are talking about a 16-year-old boy who just two years ago was playing for the Olney Rangers Soccer Club in Maryland. One name already comes to mind for those who have seen Zelalem dazzle, another prodigy who made his Gunners debut at just 16 years old, Cesc Fabregas. Wenger will do well not to rush his young star into Premier League action, instead Zelalem will probably be worked into the squad via this seasons domestic cups in England. However, with heavy praise, and ability to match, the future certainly looks bright for Gedion Zelalem and his Arsenal career.