There was a surprise inclusion on the Arsenal bench for the victory over Leicester City last Monday, with 18-year-old Zech Medley named in a matchday squad for the first-team for the first time.
Medley, a tall centre-back who is composed in possession, has developed well since joining Arsenal in 2016, when he impressed on trial having elected to leave Chelsea.
This season Medley has established himself as an important player for Arsenal at U23 level, forging an effective partnership with Danny Ballard at the heart of the defence in recent games.
Although Medley has previously represented England at U16 level, he hasn’t been involved with the national team recently and, as a consequence, was able to train with the first-team during the recent international break.
Medley evidently impressed Unai Emery, who selected him to train with the senior squad the day before the Leicester game and, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos still working his way back to full fitness, the youngster was named on the bench.
Although he didn’t enter the fray, the experience will undoubtedly be a valuable one for Medley, and he will be aiming for further involvement this campaign.
Frustratingly, Medley isn’t eligible to play in the Europa League at present as to be registered for that competition youth players have to have been at a club for two whole years. In December Medley will be able to be added to Arsenal’s Europa League squad, but he is able to feature in the Carabao Cup.
Medley will hope to be involved in some capacity against Blackpool next week, although given Emery’s policy of naming strong squads for cup games, the youngster’s best chance of involvement is likely to be as a substitute.
It is a boost for Medley, though, that he has seemingly managed to edge ahead of Julio Pleguezuelo and Ballard in terms of being closer to the first-team, although the suspicion remains that the latter perhaps has the most potential out of the trio.
Medley, however, can be pleased with his development so far and will now be looking to push on further as he edges closer to making his first-team debut.