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All Guns Blazing: Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley can make the grade, but it won’t be easy

Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal

Jeorge Bird
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
5:21 PM

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, AFC Youth blogger Jeorge Bird looks at arguably the club’s two best youth prospects and their chances of breaking into the first team this season.

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Dan Crowley, England U17Dan Crowley, England U17

For an academy that lists Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas amongst its alumni, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that two of Arsenal’s most vaunted current prospects are central-midfielders.

Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley may have taken vastly different paths to get to this stage, but the pair, who both specialise in unlocking opposition defences with precise passes, are tipped for incredibly bright futures.

Zelalem, who was spotted by Arsenal whilst eplaying in the United States, has already sampled first-team action, having made his debut in the FA Cup last season whilst also impressing during several pre-season fixtures.

Crowley, acquired from Aston Villa last Summer, is yet to feature for Arsene Wenger’s side, but has drawn rave reviews for his performances for the youth teams. A highlight was the demolition of Peterborough United in the FA Youth Cup last season when he scored two goals and set up the other four in a 6-1 win.

Zelalem, who is excellent at playing precise through-balls, has struggled for consistency at U21 level, despite his considerable talent. The German youth international is often outmuscled easily and needs to improve his tactical understanding.

If he can rectify those flaws, however, then he has every chance of making the grade. Confident in possession and very skilful, he has evoked memories of Fabregas at times with his passing. It will take a little longer for Zelalem to break into the team than the Spaniard did, however, and he is being allowed to develop in the U21s for now.

Crowley tends to embark on more dribbles than Zelalem and usually operates in the number 10 position, although he has been deployed on the left flank in recent U21 games. Confident in his own ability and capable of bringing the best out of others as well as himself, it is easy to see why he is so highly regarded.

Both players, despite their considerable promise, will have to be patient for opportunities. The likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are already in the first-team squad, so it may be some time yet before Zelalem and Crowley are able to establish themselves as regulars.

For now they are seeking to improve day by day by working on their flaws. The Capital One Cup could provide them with an opportunity to demonstrate just how far they have progressed and, if they can catch the eye in that competition, then further involvement with the senior team may follow.

Follow me @JeorgeBird

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