Arsenal's experienced campaigner Mikel Arteta has spoken about the three Arsenal juniors he thinks will make it all the way into Arsene Wenger's first-team squad.
Jack Wilson of The Daily Star reports that Arteta has singled out Gedion Zelalem, Benik Afobe and Serge Gnabry as the men Arsenal fans should keep a close eye on over the next few years.
Wilson quotes the midfield maestro saying:
Gedion [Zelalem] has been the most impressive. He’s got a special talent in the position he plays in. Benik Afobe is another with good pace and the ability to get into the team. Serge [Gnabry] is in the first team now and I’m sure there will be a couple more.
Here we take a closer look at the three starlets:
Every club has their own "next big thing" but if the rumours about Gedion Zelalem are true, Arsenal have a superstar in the making.
The 17-year-old made his first-team debut from the bench against Coventry in the FA Cup, and has just signed a deal with The Gunners committing him to the club until 2017, as reported by John Drayton from The Mail Online.
Drayton writes that the young player has been deployed in the Under-21 Premier League, FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League this season but has yet to make his senior bow in the Premier League.
Zelalem made history against Coventry by becoming the first player born after Arsene Wenger took charge at the club to feature in one of his teams. Wenger began his reign at Highbury on October 1, 1996. Zelalem was born on January 26, 1997, almost four months after, per Drayton's article.
David Hytner of The Guardian purred about Zelalem in his article about the player, bravely entitled: "Arsenal's Next Fabregas."
He quotes one of player's youth coaches Matt Pilkington, from Olney Rangers in the U.S.A, who said: "He dribbles like (Andres) Iniesta and he passes like Xavi. I've thought like that for the past few years but I've been wary about saying it. I don't worry now."
Zelalem is certainly in demand and, according to Hytner, has been at the centre of an international tug-o-war between his home of the U.S. where he lived from age nine to 16, and Germany, whom he qualifies to play for as a naturalised citizen as he was born in Berlin.
He can also play for Ethopia as his parents are both from the African nation.
As Hytner reports, U.S.A. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has personally pleaded with the boy to represent America but he must decide his future soon as Germany have called him up to their under-17 squad.
BeIN Sports announcer Phil Schoen tweeted about the campaign in the U.S. to speed up Zelalem's citizenship:
USMNT fans launch petition asking Barack Obama to fast-track Gedion Zelalem's citizenship | SIDELINE http://t.co/GREjuRrANH— Phil Schoen (@PhilSchoen) February 28, 2014
If Zelalem is half the player many predict he will be, Wenger is a very lucky man. Special players as good as Zelalem come around only a few times in a generation.
Considering the impact Adnan Januzaj has had at Manchester United, this young player can be Arsenal's bright hope for the future.
It seems that the youngster has the world at his feet and everyone who is a fan of English football will soon know all about his skill and ability.
Arsenal could certainly use a player who is a hybrid of Barcelona's two greatest midfield talents as they bid to end an ongoing trophy drought.
Much like Zelalem, 18-year-old winger Serge Gnabry is very much in demand. And also like Zelalem, the young player appears to be the long-term property of Germany as he commits his future to the nation, per Alex Richards from The Mirror.
The Stuttgart-born player was also eligible to play for the Ivory Coast but appears to have rejected their advances.
Richards quotes Gnabry saying to Die Welt : "Since I have played for the Germany youth teams, it is no question for me that I want to play for Germany by any means. I hope that I can make the leap into the first team."
Gnabry shows excellent power and balance for one so young, and his ability to operate around the forward positions makes him a valuable future asset for Wenger.
His inclusion could see Theo Walcott move into his preferred position as striker, allowing Gnabry to play in a wider role.
He has already broken into Arsenal's first-team, playing nine times in the Premier League and scoring once, per Squawka. There is no doubt we will see more of this player in the next 12 months.
Will Gedion Zelalem be in Arsenal's first eleven next season?
The England under-21 international has previously sustained a serious groin injury and been a victim of a tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, as described by the Arsenal club website.
He does not have the profile of either Gnabry or Zelalem, but the potential of the player is evident, and he is still one of the club's genuine prospects.
If he can prove himself after such an unlucky start with injury, he can use the experience to fire him on to greater success. Great things are still expected from Afobe and his chance at Sheffield Wednesday is one he must take.