Despite the considerable excitement surrounding Arsenal prospect Gedion Zelalem, manager Arsene Wenger has stressed that the 17-year-old is not yet ready for full first-team action.
One of the club’s brightest young talents, Zelalem is currently with the squad in the US for their pre-season matchup with the New York Red Bulls, having also appeared in their opening game of the summer against Boreham Wood.
However, despite his presence on the trip, Wenger has urged caution when discussing the midfielder’s future, though admits that he possesses enormous potential.
‘Gedion is a young and promising talent. I honestly think he has the ability to become a great player,’ he said at a press conference ahead of the weekend’s Red Bulls match.
‘But that will be decided in the next two or three year because he still has to show me that he has the mental level required to be a top competitor.'
‘Today, it’s too early for him to play for us but I would say in one year we will know more about him or, maybe if it all goes well, in six months,’ he added.
‘But just now he’s not completely ready to start in the league. But he’s with us now. In practice he’s with us a lot and we have very high expectations for him.’
Born in Germany, Zelalem grew up in Berlin playing for Hertha BSC’s academy until moving to the US in 2006, where he was eventually spotted by ex-Arsenal player and now scout Danny Karbassiyoon.
Officially signing with the Gunners upon turning 16 in January last year, the German under-17 international has made a rapid ascent through the club’s youth system, establishing himself as a regular in the under-21 side during the 2013-14 campaign, while even making his first-team debut in the FA Cup, becoming the first player under Wenger to be born after the start of the Frenchman's tenure in North London.
Signing a new long-term deal in March, Zelalem’s national team future has also been the subject of much talk, being eligible for US citizenship, and with reports that he is considering making the switch to the stars and stripes, leading some to label him as a potential standout for the Americans in Russia 2018.
While that scenario is clearly still a long way off, it’s obvious that he has a bright club and international future ahead of him, though 2014-15 may not be the season in which we see him burst onto the scene, if Wenger is to be believed.