Can Zelalem still have an Arsenal future after injury lay-off?

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The new season usually brings with it feelings of optimism and excitement but that certainly isn’t the case for Gedion Zelalem this year.

After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while representing the United States at the U20 World Cup in May, Zelalem was ruled out for nine months, with the midfielder set to miss a significant part of the new campaign.

The injury could hardly have been more ill-timed for Zelalem, who has less than a year remaining on his Arsenal contract and was facing an uncertain future even before this significant setback.

For now the 20-year-old midfielder is striving to ensure that his recovery goes as smoothly as possible, with his first objective simply being to get back playing again, at whatever level.

With regards to his long-term situation, however, Zelalem must wait and see what the verdict is.

Upon his arrival at Arsenal Zelalem made a major impact at U16 level and, before too long, was receiving mainstream plaudits for his performances for the first-team during pre-season.

Now, though, he has just four competitive appearances for Arsenal to his name, while he has yet to feature for the Gunners in the Premier League.

Having gained experience during loan spells with Rangers and VVV-Venlo, it was hoped that this season would see Zelalem perform consistently and move a step closer to fulfilling his vast potential. His injury, however, has dampened those hopes, or at least put them on hold.

Zelalem is a very talented player. His composure on the ball is remarkable, while he is capable of playing defence-splitting passes with regularity.

In addition, the prospect has improved with regards to the defensive side of his game and now closes down opponents with regularity and is capable of making precisely-timed interceptions.

He is far from the finished article but the raw potential is very much still there, which suggests that Zelalem still, at the very least, deserves an opportunity to show that he is still capable of making the cut at Arsenal.

However, at a club where fellow talented young midfielders Jon Toral and Dan Crowley have been unable to get close to breaking into the first-team, it is difficult to have much optimism that Zelalem’s chance will come.

Firstly it is hoped that Zelalem will make a full recovery from his injury with no long-lasting effects.

Then attention can begin to turn towards his Arsenal career. It would be very disappointing if he wasn’t given a chance to demonstrate his credentials.

Jeorge Bird is the author of http://arsenalyouth.wordpress.com/, follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

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