It has been a funny summer for Arsenal fans. For the first off season since Done Howe was in charge, the threat of losing players to the more glamorous clubs of Spain, or er, Manchester, is not apparent. Add to that the claim by the club that there is money to spend of anything between £70m-£120m and there were certainly reasons for the fans to finally enjoy the summer.
It has, however, not quite panned out like that so far. No players have left and there was plenty of talk of world class players being linked: Higuain, Suarez, Rooney to name three. But there is nothing doing as yet. Twitter is exacerbating the hope and disappointment, so much so that fans are already getting tetchy. Personally I have absolutely no idea who Arsenal will or will not sign. In fact, I am not even sure who I’d like. It’s almost “anyone better than we currently have”.
There is of course, plenty of time left, but the hope of early June is starting to slowly erode. The club are currently on a tour of Asia, which has seen them completely dominate three relatively average opponents. Ramsey and Giroud in particular have impressed of the senior players.
In the absence of major signings, or even really a hint of one (even though L’Equipe claim we have actually agreed to sign Bernard), the fans have had the pleasure of watching some of the supposed younger stars get some fairly decent game time.
Chuba Akpom, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfield have all impressed in small parts, hinting that they all themselves have a future at the club. But one name has stood head and shoulders above those players mentioned.
Gedion Zelelam. A 16-year-old Ethiopian by parentage, who is eligible to play for the German national team, was discovered playing in Maryland USA by Arsenal North American scout, Daniel Karbassiyoon.
There was hype around him before anyone had ever seen him play. There were reports he was every bit as good as Cesc Fabregas at 15. Exciting indeed. But as Arsenal fans we have been here before. The hyped kid who turns out to not quite fulfil the hype. Over the last 3 games, the fans have had the chance to see what all the fuss is about.
In the three games on tour he has played a significant part in all. Of course the opponents have not been good, but that tells only half the story. In the latest game, a 3-1 win over Wenger’s former team, Grampus Eight, he showed remarkable vision in setting up one goal and creating another couple of chances, most notably for Chuba Akpom. The balance and vision he has displayed in his first few minutes in the first team belay his tender age. Physically he has quite some way to go, as you would expect of a 16 year old. However the signs look very good.
It is rare for such skills to be present in one so young. Rooney, Fabregas and Michael Owen are three players that I can think of who were so obviously going to be world class players at 16, there are not many more.
It will be very interesting to see what Wenger has planned for him this season. At the very least I would expect him to be a central part of the Carling Cup team. And perhaps he will get a run out in the Champions League if we are lucky enough to face a dead rubber. But who knows? Cesc was fast tracked very quickly, and the initial signs are that Gedion is very much in that league.
We could, of course, be completely mistaken. It is hard to know, but as fans, we love to hype a player. It is part of the fun. Being there from the begining of a players career. It is often very hard to not gush about someone with such obvious talent, but this can heap huge amounts of pressure on them as the fans expect them to perform miracles from day one.
It is nice to have such a player coming through, and we can only hope that he goes on to have half of the career that Cesc had with us. And whilst we should be cautious of any expectation we place upon his shoulders, it also does appear that he has all the tools to make it at the very top level.