Arsenal U23s are back in action tomorrow night when they host Brighton & Hove Albion at Emirates Stadium and it could be a particularly significant occasion for Gedion Zelalem.
The midfielder, once regarded as one of Arsenal’s standout young players, hasn’t played for the club in an official game since January 2017 and has been injured for much of the ensuing period.
However, it is anticipated that Zelalem will play some part against Brighton and, regardless of how well he performs, he will relish simply being back on the pitch again.
Arsenal could field a rather strong side in this fixture, with the likes of Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe having not featured for the first-team so far this season.
Having started the campaign with a scarcely believable 6-5 defeat against Manchester City, Arsenal will aim to be rather more resolute at the back on this occasion, but they will have to cope without Krystian Bielik, who has joined Charlton Athletic on loan.
With Bielik unavailable, Zech Medley should come into the heart of the defence to partner Julio Pleguezuelo, while Jordi Osei-Tutu and Tolaji Bola are set to continue as the full-backs.
It is a busy week for Arsenal as they travel to face West Ham United at the London Stadium on Friday, and Freddie Ljungberg’s team will be eager to impress as their title defence continues.
Xavier Amaechi, who scored against City, could well prove to be one of the standout performers for the U23s this season, such is the quality that he possesses. The England youth international, who is typically deployed on the right wing, is a superb dribbler and also regularly tracks back to help his defence.
One area of concern for Arsenal is at the base of the midfield, where there is a sizeable gap left by the departure of Josh Dasilva, who was a pivotal figure last season.
Charlie Gilmour and Joe Willock, who are likely to be the main midfield pairing this term, are both very talented players but neither of them are specialised defensive midfielders, which means that, as was the case against City, Arsenal’s defence can often get exposed as they aren’t sufficiently protected.
Still, Arsenal have much in the way of attacking firepower and with the Europa League and the League Cup just around the corner, the young Gunners will certainly be eager to impress as they compete for first-team minutes.