Other than Alexis Sanchez, the player most Arsenal fans will be eager to see perform next season will be Gedion Zelalem - just ask Thierry Henry. Zelalem may only be 17 but the midfielder already has supporters rather excited.
A pre-season star
Zelalem was one of the most impressive performers last pre-season, most notably against in a win over Manchester City, but had to wait until the following January for his competitive first-team bow.
It came in FA Cup fourth round against Coventry, the second game in Arsenal’s run to glory in the competition, although there were no further appearances for the remainder of the season. He will, however, feature prominently in pre-season once again.
Zelalem started Arsenal’s only friendly encounter so far, a 2-0 victory over Boreham Wood last Saturday, and Arsene Wenger has confirmed the German will play a part against New York Red Bulls this weekend.
Given that he could qualify to play for the USA at senior level should he choose to do so, Zelalem’s name has been among the most talked about ahead of this game, along with Thierry Henry, of course, who faces his former club.
Henry is himself aware of the talent Zelalem possesses, and is hopeful the teenager is able to fulfil his potential and follow Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere by rising through the ranks to become the creative heartbeat of the Arsenal team.
Thierry Henry impressed
"Everybody knows him," Henry told reporters. "[He is] quality. Good on the ball, great vision. Everyone is talking about him.
"It is not easy to break into the first team at Arsenal but certainly he has the quality and the right boss to make sure that he can do it. Hopefully for us as Arsenal fans he can perform and become a great player.
"Arsenal have a lot of good players, young players in the squad coming through. You will see them on Saturday.
“Everyone expects the big names but there are a lot of young and good players that you don’t see during the year because sometimes they go out on loan to get some minutes.”
The next Cesc Fabregas?
Zelalem is regarded as the best talent Arsenal have nurtured since Wilshere emerged from the ranks, although there are many who rate the player more in the bracket of Fabregas. Quite an accolade.
When Arsene Wenger took the decision to sell captain Patrick Vieira just a year on from Arsenal’s Invicibles campaign, he did so in order to allow Fabregas to flourish in his midfield. Could there now be a similar pattern with regards to Zelalem?
Watch: The latest Arsenal transfer news
Perhaps Wenger’s decision to forgo the opportunity to re-sign Fabregas was made with Zelalem’s progression taken into consideration. The acquisition of the former Arsenal skipper would have certainly stunted the growth of his potential successor.
Arsenal may have signed Sanchez in the time since the Fabregas chance was missed, but fans will not forget it that easily. However, the ascension of Zelalem may prove to reinforce the adage that emblazoned the Emirates Stadium for some time - Arsene knows best.
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