When Can Arsenal Realistically Expect to See Gedion Zelalem?


Gedion Zelalem is making the most headlines of his life recently with all the hubbub about choosing to play for the United States and being included in the U20 side and being the future face of United States football. But so many questions still remain in regards to his club career.

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Gedion Zelalem has been hailed as the next big thing for quite some time, but he’s yet to really pose any threat to the first-team at Arsenal. Granted, he’s only 18 years old, but players like Serge Gnabry, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were threatening the first team by the time they were legally able to drink.

Of course, the argument there can be made that Arsenal is in a much different state now than they were back in the young days of Ramsey and Wilshere, but with world-class hype comes world-class expectations, and Gedion Zelalem is falling victim to those expectations. Before he’s even made an attempt at serious first-team action, he’s being anointed the Messiah of United States football.

Jurgen Klinsmann said of the youngster: “I think he’s already at a level that he can definitely play on the senior team. He’s a special player.” (via ESPNFC)

Arsene Wenger will most likely send young Gedion Zelalem out on loan to start next season, saying (via ESPNFC): “I always test the players in preseason and after I make an assessment on how close they are to the first team. If he is not close, he needs to play something.”

The odds that Gedion Zelalem is going to impress enough alongside our mass of midfield talent is slim to none, so now the question becomes as the title suggests: When will he be ready?

A lot of Arsenal’s midfielders are in their prime years, but still young. Mesut Ozil is 26, Jack Wilshere 23, Aaron Ramsey 24, the Ox 21, Coquelin 23; these are guys that still have up to a decade left of football to give. This could be beneficial to Gedion Zelalem because he’s going to find that Arsenal are in no rush to get him into the first-team.

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Even if it takes half a decade. Zelalem will be 23. Ozil will be 31, Wilshere 28 and Ramsey 29. It’ll be nearing the time for a changing of the guard. In steps Gedion Zelalem, Krystian Bielik, Daniel Crowley and the next wave of young Arsenal talent.

It’s important to remember that when Ramsey, Wilshere and the Ox were making appearances at the incredibly young ages of 18 to 19 years old, Arsenal was in a much different state. The Emirates wasn’t paid off and players were leaving and signing on to overpriced Manchester contracts like it was the cool thing to do or something. The Emirates is paid off now and we aren’t going to be losing key guys like Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere. As such, the openings for young guys like Gedion Zelalem or Serge Gnabry aren’t going to be as open as they once were.

Again though, that’s not a bad thing, and I’d almost prefer it this way. Players need time to develop, grow and mature. Zelalem is only 18 years old, he may still grow into a bigger human being and develop new skills along with it. There is so much time to see where his career takes him that there shouldn’t be any panic surrounding his supposed lack of any real development.

Gedion Zelalem’s time will come, just not as soon as it will come with the USMNT, where he’ll likely factor into their 2018 World Cup run at the age of 21. Coming off a World Cup may be the most likely time for us to see Gedion Zelalem seriously considered for the first-team. Facing world-class players has a tendency to round off a player and give them a taste of the big time.

Next: Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere: Pick a Goal

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