Arsenal starlet Gedion Zelalem makes up for lack of transfers
Has Arsene Wenger unearthed the new Cesc Fabregas, in the form of 16-year-old midfielder?
ARSENAL may have been quiet on the transfer front this summer, but they appear to have an exciting new talent to unleash on the Premier League next season in the form of 16-year-old Gedion Zelalem, who has become one of the stars of the Gunners' pre-season tour of Asia.
The youngster, who has Ethiopian heritage, but was born in Germany and whose family now live in Maryland in America, joined the Gunners when he turned 16 in January, signing from the little-known Olney Rangers in Bethesda, on the outskirts of Washington DC.
He did not play for the Arsenal first team last season, but such is his ability that he has been turning out for Arsenal reserves, while his contemporaries play for the under-18 team at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger obviously liked what he saw as Zelalem was included in the squad of 24 for the tour of the Far East. He made quite an impression playing against Indonesia Dream Team and Vietnam and ended up becoming a global trend on Twitter. There was more to come today as his sublime through ball to Theo Walcott against Nagoya Grampus in Japan sent him soaring up the trending list on Twitter once again.
And his performances have certainly got the fans talking. Many were struck by the wide smile on Wenger's face after Zelalem set up Walcott. "He knows what a gem he has," tweeted Michael Bhujel.
"Perhaps the most striking aspect of Zelalem's game is his vision." says the World Soccer Talk, website. "He has a remarkable ability to recognise the runs being made by his team-mates and react quickly with an accurate through ball. Additionally, Zelalem's composure on the ball is astounding given his age."
The site even compares him to Cesc Fabregas, who also made his Arsenal debut at 16.
American sports website SB Nation says the teenager is "an exciting prospect" who could be destined for great things. "He doesn't have a standout physical feature that puts him ahead of his peers," it says. "Instead, his game is predicated on vision, technical quality and superb awareness and intelligence, traits that are hard to teach."
Others have pointed out that his small stature could actually be a blessing. Many promising youngsters look good because they are bigger or faster than boys of a similar age. But those traits are soon cancelled out in the hurly-burly of the Premier League. Zelalem, on the other hand, has made his name through his sharpness and vision.
He has a "style very similar to the legendary Michael Laudrup" says 101 Great Goals, which says his "seriously impressive performances" should earn him an outing or two in the Premier League.
With other youngsters like Thomas Eisfeld, Kris Olsson, Serge Gnabry, Chuks Aneke and Chuba Akpom also in the tour party, the Gunners could have plenty of new talent to call on next season.