Eisfeld Sparks Arsenal Comeback, Malli Debuts: Young Germans Shine in Cup Action
The Bundesliga's reputation of producing talented young footballers is well known by now, and indeed starlets perpetually spring forth from its academies. The question often comes up: Who will be the next Goetze, Ozil or Hummels? And who is on the fast-track to the big time?
On Tuesday, fans in Germany and England alike were treated to several new talents. Some, like Serge Gnabry and Yunus Malli, had made multiple appearances as substitutes in recent weeks, but were handed starting berths for the first time. Thomas Eisfeld, on the other hand, had never before played a minute in a competitive match for Arsenal and made his professional debut as a substitute.
More are expected to come on Wednesday as the likes of Liverpool's Samed Yesil, Leverkusen's Okan Aydin and Bayern duo Emre Can and Mitchell Weiser may be given run-outs in domestic cup matches. But for now, there is a considerable sampling to reflect upon from Tuesday's matches. Here are the most notable newcomers:
Serge Gnabry (17, Arsenal): Touted as a supertalent by Arsene Wenger in the lead-up to Tuesday's Capital One Cup clash with Reading, the ex-Stuttgart man made his first start in the Gunners' 7-5 win in extra time. Given an hour to show himself, Gnabry looked strong in one-on-one situations and came close to scoring in one instance. He is still very raw, but there are few German youngsters with his potential.
Thomas Eisfeld (19, Arsenal): The former Dortmund playmaker came on for Gnabry for the final half hour and provided the creative spark Arsenal needed between the midfield and forward lines. Eisfeld was quick to the ball and his passing was very sharp. He (along with Olivier Giroud) catalyzed Arsenal's comeback from 4-1 down.
Yunus Malli (20, Mainz): A Germany youth international from U17-U20 levels, Malli was once a very promising youngster, but his progress stalled after being promoted to the Mainz reserves. On Tuesday, however the German-Turk was the match winner against Aue, setting up Andreas Ivanschitz' opener before netting the second goal himself.
Sead Kolasinac (19, Schalke): The defensive all-rounder and Germany U20 international had previously played just 16 minutes for Schalke's senior side, but on Tuesday made his first start. Schalke were always in control of their match with Sandhausen and the youngster seems to have displaced Sergio Escudero as Schalke's first-choice backup at left back.
Maximilian Meyer (17, Schalke): Arguably the best player among the German U19 leagues, Meyer was rewarded for his continued good form on Tuesday as he was for the first time selected into Huub Stevens' matchday squad. Although he did not feature in Tuesday's match, his inclusion suggests he may be permanently promoted to the first team in the coming months. He is, statistically at least, in better standing than Julian Draxler was at his age.
Leon Goretzka (17, Bochum): A regular starter for Bochum for most of the season thus far, Goretzka perhaps is not new to many football fans. However, his performance in Bochum's 3-1 win merits mention. The box-to-box midfielder technically assisted Alexander Iashvili's equalizer to make it 1-1, but the Georgian should take all the credit for his wonder goal. Shortly before full time, Goretzka forced an excellent save that kept him off the scoresheet.
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