6th January 2016: Zelalem’s loan extended

Evening all. A very quick round-up for you tonight and I’ll begin with confirmation that Gedion Zelalem’s loan spell at Rangers has been extended until the end of the season.

The 18 year old midfielder has, evidently, impressed enough in his 12 league appearances so far for the Glasgow giants to have his stay prolonged and that can only be good news for his development.

Rangers are of course in the second tier of Scottish football but playing in front of big, demanding crowds at Ibrox should stand him in good stead if and when he makes his mark on the Arsenal first-team. And playing against older, tougher and more experienced pros will no doubt improve his physical attributes, a little like Jack Wilshere when he went on loan to Bolton.

I must admit I haven’t paid much attention to how he’s been getting on this season and the little I have seen of him was during pre-season for us the summer before last, I think, when his passing and vision really stood out as being his best attributes. If I were to compare him to any more-established player in world football at the moment it would be Thiago Alcantara, formerly of Barcelona and presently keeping Bayern Munich’s midfield ticking over.

Whether Zelalem will end up making a career with Arsenal only time will tell, but he must look at the current Arsenal squad and think he has a great chance, for no other reason than we’re not especially well-stocked with players boasting his signature skill-set.

I mean, we have plenty of central midfielders but bar Santi Cazorla, none that would claim dictating the play and ball circulation as their main strengths. Wilshere may disagree and England seem intent on deploying him as a deeper-lying playmaker, but Arsene Wenger is on record as saying he views Wilshere’s best role as being further forward, as one of the three behind a lone striker in our currently favoured formation.

Which leaves Mathieu Flamini (defensive, old), Francis Coquelin (defensive), Aaron Ramsey (more box-to-box and passing’s far from his best asset), Mikel Arteta (old, injury-prone, surely on the brink of retirement) and if he eventually signs, Mohamed Elneny (defensive, box-to-box). So if Zelalem can prove he’s ready for first-team consideration at Arsenal by the start of next season, who knows? Maybe he’ll do a Cesc Fabregas and be running the show in the Arsenal midfield sooner rather than later …

Moving on now but sticking with the ‘exciting prospect’ theme and Jeff Reine-Adelaide has been talking to Arsenal Player and discussing his career to date. He said:

Lens had followed me for a while. They came to supervise me in a district tournament where I was voted best player on the pitch. They came to my house to discuss things with my parents. Everything went really quick [after that]. Lens were in Ligue 1 and had a bit of a financial problem. They didn’t have enough players to be competitive. We were in the bottom three for most of the season and didn’t manage to save the club from relegation. I was lucky Arsenal came [in for me]. I could have been a Ligue 2 player in France. I’m so grateful to be here. I was happy – very happy actually. The fans seemed to be happy too. In fact, everyone was happy for me, including the coach and that is important. Of course it was a strange feeling, the media talks only about superstars. I was very surprised but of course happy. My parents told me I have not done anything yet – they told me to keep my feet on the ground and that I should keep working hard. I think I need to improve every single day when I train, show that I’m focused and concentrating and show that I want to succeed. I need to show I will never give up, then, if one day I get my chance, it is my duty to show the coach to put his trust in me. Then I will fight to regularly be in the first team.

As with Zelalem, his participation in pre-season football is the extent of my scouting of Jeff, but as I’m sure we all remember, the Frenchman’s silky-smooth Emirates Cup showings last summer left fans marveling at his talent and excited by the player he might become for the club.

However their Arsenal futures eventually pan out though, right now both Zelalem and Reine-Adelaide have shown they have the footballing ability to be Arsenal first-teamers. So as always, it will be a combination of luck, timing and their progression over the next year or two that will ultimately determine whether they’ll become Arsenal first-team regulars, or have to make a career elsewhere.

Til Thursday.

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