All things considered, Gedion Zelalem’s imminent loan switch to VVV-Venlo over in the Netherlands will be seen as a step down quality-wise, but is ultimately one which could help him develop further into an ideal first-team midfielder.
Having performed at a consistent level on a regular basis at u23 level, it is evident that the midfielder is mature enough to play senior football, something which can also be stressed for Ainsley Maitland-Miles and Krystian Bielik.
Both I’ve just mentioned are highly-rated youngsters whom plenty of supporters have high hopes for, but the same cannot really be said in Zelalem’s case – mainly given the timing of his senior debut, albeit an FA Cup win over Coventry at the start of 2014.
The now 20-year-old made a 20-minute cameo and was impressive, showing refreshing composure on the ball with tendencies to get involved in attacking movements further upfield alongside Jack Wilshere as Arsenal were two goals ahead during their fourth-round fixture.
Big things were expected of the Berlin-born starlet but competition for places saw opportunities to play limited for the unproven teenager when Arsenal longed for a more experienced head to marshal the midfield.
A loan move to Rangers was seen as important for his development and it was an unforgettable experience. There were questions from supporters over his attitude and overall suitability to the role he was playing in Scotland.
Traditionally seen as an overtly physical league, it was always going to be an intriguing move for him on a personal level to see if he was ready for more minutes in first-team competition. It’s no surprise he remained at London Colney during the first few months of the campaign.
Despite this, he has shown maturity and progress this term, things that suggest he could feature for the senior side at some stage. Ultimately though, there will always be someone younger and seen as more highly-rated and that could force him (just like it did to Serge Gnabry) away from the club on a permanent move, contract extension or not.
If he joined an Eredivisie side in the same manner as Dan Crowley did earlier this month, there might be renewed optimism for his chances once he returns. All he can hope for is that he impresses on a consistent basis and proves an influential figure as VVV Venlo attempt to achieve promotion into Holland’s first division this season.