Football

Gedion Zelalem is not the finished product - Ivan Gazidis

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Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has called on supporters heaping unnecessary pressure on Gedion Zelalem to give the talented teenager time to fulfil his potential, and not expect too much too soon from the exciting young midfielder.

The Gunners director spoke positively about the 18-year-old's potential to forge a successful career in north London, but warned against building up the hype before he's ready to make the step up to the first-team.

Zelalem made his senior debut in an FA Cup clash against Coventry City in 2014 and was also included on the substitutes' bench in a Premier League game at the tender age of 16.

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However, he's still far from becoming a regular in Arsene Wenger's side and needs more time to continue his development under the watchful eye of the French tactician and his team of youth coaches, who have a great track record of nurturing emerging stars of the future.

He made a positive impression on the club's pre-season tour of Asia in 2013, and was even compared to former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas when he first came into the public eye.

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Zelalem's progression through the ranks hasn't been quite as swift as many expected, though, owing partly to his very slight frame which means he's not particularly well suited to the rigours of English top-flight football.

Wenger did select the youngster for 45 minutes of Arsenal's Champions League group stage game against Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates, but other than that he's been restricted mainly to U19 and U21 action.

He's contributed two assists in 12 games for the U21s, and has one goal and one assist in six appearances for the U19s, but also finds his route to the first-team blocked by a host of higher-profile players currently performing well in the senior fold.

Naturally, Gazidis is eager to protect the precocious young talent, and called for patience from Arsenal fans around the world when it comes to Zelalem.

"You have to temper this [expectation] because you are always looking for the next big star, and I've been guilty of this myself," he said in an interview with American publication Sports Illustrated. "Gedion is an exciting young talent, he's got German heritage, and speaks like an American kid.

"Right at this moment he's not the finished product. He's very much got a lot of development to do. He's focused on doing that. There's something exciting there, but lets not get things ahead of themselves.

Huge potential

"Gedion's training with and against some of the best young players in the world. He steps up every now and again with the first team, the level he's got to get to. He's got an understanding there's a lot of competition and a long way to go."

It's understandable that Gazidis wants to play down expectations concerning Zelalem, particularly after watching several other exciting young players crash and burn after showing so much potential in the formative stage of their respective careers.

Time will tell whether he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level, but for now he needs to be given the time to prepare himself for life in the higher echelons of the Premier League.

Arsenal fans: Do you think Gedion Zelalem can follow in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas? Or will he end up being an Emmanuel Frimpong-style flop? Share your thoughts below!

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Football
Premier League
Arsenal

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