Arsenal teenager Gedion Zelalem could be afforded a competitive first-team debut against Coventry City on Friday evening, just two days before he is eligible to sign a professional contract with the club.
It may be a weekend of celebration for the German midfielder who, reports The Guardian, is in contention to face Coventry in the FA Cup fourth round encounter before he turns 17 on Sunday.
Zelalem only joined the Arsenal academy a year ago, on the day of his 16th birthday, and his ascension represents a rapid rise. It does, however, come as little surprise given the high regard he is held in at the Emirates Stadium.
The youngster was a regular feature for the Gunners in pre-season and produced a particularly eye-catching display during the defeat of Manchester City in August at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium.
Zelalem played for only 16 minutes that day but his composure and confidence provided clear evidence as to why he is adjudged by some as the most exciting young talent to progress through the Arsenal academy since Cesc Fabregas.
However, given that Fabregas has long-since returned to Barcelona and Zelalem has been joined at Arsenal by an esteemed compatriot, it may be that comparisons are now more readily made to Mesut Özil.
Zelalem, although also eligible for the USA and Ethiopia, has played for Germany at under-16 level and will immediately feel at home among the seniors with Özil, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Serge Gnabry also among their number.