Saturday, June 3, 2023

Can Zelalem still have an Arsenal future after injury lay-off?

The new season usually brings with it feelings of optimism and excitement but that certainly isn’t the case for Gedion Zelalem this year.

After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while representing the United States at the U20 World Cup in May, Zelalem was ruled out for nine months, with the midfielder set to miss a significant part of the new campaign.

The injury could hardly have been more ill-timed for Zelalem, who has less than a year remaining on his Arsenal contract and was facing an uncertain future even before this significant setback.

For now the 20-year-old midfielder is striving to ensure that his recovery goes as smoothly as possible, with his first objective simply being to get back playing again, at whatever level.

With regards to his long-term situation, however, Zelalem must wait and see what the verdict is.

Upon his arrival at Arsenal Zelalem made a major impact at U16 level and, before too long, was receiving mainstream plaudits for his performances for the first-team during pre-season.

Now, though, he has just four competitive appearances for Arsenal to his name, while he has yet to feature for the Gunners in the Premier League.

Having gained experience during loan spells with Rangers and VVV-Venlo, it was hoped that this season would see Zelalem perform consistently and move a step closer to fulfilling his vast potential. His injury, however, has dampened those hopes, or at least put them on hold.

Zelalem is a very talented player. His composure on the ball is remarkable, while he is capable of playing defence-splitting passes with regularity.

In addition, the prospect has improved with regards to the defensive side of his game and now closes down opponents with regularity and is capable of making precisely-timed interceptions.

He is far from the finished article but the raw potential is very much still there, which suggests that Zelalem still, at the very least, deserves an opportunity to show that he is still capable of making the cut at Arsenal.

However, at a club where fellow talented young midfielders Jon Toral and Dan Crowley have been unable to get close to breaking into the first-team, it is difficult to have much optimism that Zelalem’s chance will come.

Firstly it is hoped that Zelalem will make a full recovery from his injury with no long-lasting effects.

Then attention can begin to turn towards his Arsenal career. It would be very disappointing if he wasn’t given a chance to demonstrate his credentials.

Jeorge Bird is the author of, follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

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zelalem ×
jeff ×
nelson ?

Scott P

Crowley is one thing because there have certainly been some problems with attitude, etc., and he hasn’t exactly lit it up on his prior loans as a result.

But Toral is another thing entirely – a real head scratcher. Obviously there can be many things we don’t know about, but what else could you ask from the lad than to become his team’s Player of the Season? Seems a shame not to give him a try.


And the same year holding was player of the year for relagated Bolton too!


Confirm it a year after at higher level which he didnt’t do?


What was the latest bad decision made by Wenger/Academy coaches on young players, i’m asking seriously.
As for Zelalem I’m not convinced & think he won’t make it. Anyway it is a concern because so few players made it to the first team and so many were so promising. Don’t know where is the problem but it seems a quite big problem.

Faisal Narrage

This is such a misleading question, I hate. The idea that if a player leaves and doesn’t make it, then it’s proof that he wasn’t good enough. But that’s not how player development works. Very few at top clubs seldom leave once they get to reserves and make it. You either leave very early to gain experience at a lower club, or leave much later after some first team experience. Rarely do you leave in between that to make it, and that’s because a large part of development is both the quality of coaching they won’t get if they don’t… Read more »

Faisal Narrage

But to answer your question on bad decisions, does sending Gnabry on loan to the most anti-football coach with the worst record of giving youth a chance, and forcing him to stay there and not recall him because our first team was full, which accelerated his desire to leave count as a bad decision on a young player?


Or, to put it another way, does Gnabry agreeing to go on loan there, knowing West Brom well enough, and training so badly he barely got a kick of first team football count as a bad decision by Wenger?

Faisal Narrage

what “training so badly?” what evidence do you have for that outside of hearsay? The words of Pulis? which was then contradicted by one of his own coaches who in a local paper said he was a good kid but the gaffer wasn’t keen on him as he played with the ball to feet and that’s not how the manager works? Or you’re now claiming its the fault of a 19 year old to go on the loan offered by the club and not the club itself of whom it is their responsibility to protect his development? but this isn’t… Read more »


I think it’s fair to expect more good judgment in terms of youth development from Arsene Wenger than from a teenage footballer. That said, I’m sure both of them have their regrets about that particular situation.


I think the problem must have been the play at Granada. Recalling him and sending him to Rangers is a bit of odd business for Arsene, I wonder if something odd happened there.

Scott P

Good point, last season was not the best for him. Oh well, I guess it happens.


Rangers fans are wanting him back, and his manager at Birmingham is now at Derby and is reported as also wanting him so it’s not his attitude or ability. I really wish he’d just get a chance, it seems so unfair.


Loans don’t seem to be benefiting out talented youngsters.

Faisal Narrage

What difference does it even make anymore? Toral had 3 great loan spells and didn’t even get to train with the first team in preseason, EVER.


Three great? Which were they exactly?


the was phenomenal for Birmingham. Won both the Players’ and Supporters’ Player of the Season awards

Faisal Narrage

Grenada he didn’t play admittedly, but turned it around at Rangers.
Fantastic loan at Birmingham, which in itself should’ve been enough to AT LEAST seen him been invited to the preseason previously, considering players who have done less have been called into the first team.

The Birmingham one was after a great loan for Brentford. He did really well there, and was expected to step up at his next one (Birmingham), which he did.


I have a theory about this. At around 17-18 years of age Wenger has already made up his mind about if a player will be good enough for the first team. The player can fall down from this category e.g Jeff, Gnabry, Zelalem but not come into it later on the basis of a good loan spell. If a player has not trained with the first team before his first loan spell then he will never get into the first team. The loan are just meant to give them games and put them up for sale. The only cases where… Read more »


Brummie mate of mine was a massive fan of Toral’s, kept saying “he’s going to be a big star”. But in a really funny accent


As much as I want an American player to succeed at The Arsenal, sadly I don’t think its going to be Zelalem. He’s likely going to have to find his way at another club (Bundesliga, likely with his German family connections). Here’s to hoping its my nephew in a few years’ time- he’s 12, so give him time (but we already have college scouts circling).


Yes I’m afraid Karbassiyoon was perhaps the only American to have any first -team role at Arsenal. Would love to see Pulisic in red and white, but if he does move next summer he’ll cost close to 100m


Zelalem has the skills. If he buckles down and is determined to succeed he can make it. If he isn’t than off you go. A lot of these youngsters are talented enough to make it (Jay Emmanuel Thomas), it’s just they are not mentally strong. Here’s hoping he has it in him to stay and fight because he has Ozil like vision.

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