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Arsenal vs. NY Red Bulls: Gunners Under Pressure to Make an Impact in New Jersey

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - JULY 19:  Carl Jenkinson of Arsenal in action during the pre season friendly match between Borehamwood and Arsenal at Meadow Park on July 19, 2014 in Borehamwood, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2014

Arsenal travel to Red Bulls Arena on Saturday for the final foreign fixture of their 2014-15 preseason, where they'll face Thierry Henry's New York Bulls in another reunion of the two outfits.

The Major League Soccer outfit last met the Gunners in 2011, travelling for that summer's Emirates Cup, where they earned a 1-1 draw against their hosts, and they're hoping to go one better three years down the line.

For Arsene Wenger's side, though, this is a more important fixture in terms of developing steam ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, with some minnows within the squad hoping to seize their chance in New Jersey.

 

Gedion Zelalem

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 18:  Gedion Zelalem of Arsenal duels for the ball with Munir El Haddadi of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Youth League Quarter FInal match between FC Barcelona U19 and Arsenal U19 at Mini Estadi on March 18, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain
David Ramos/Getty Images

Although he was born in Germany's capital and brought up in the Hertha Berlin academy, Gedion Zelalem moved to the United States at the age of nine and revives a link to his past this week.

Raised in the nearby state of Maryland, it's likely that the 17-year-old will be afforded some playing time on Saturday, having impressed in last weekend's 2-0 win over Boreham Wood, per Bleacher Report's James McNicholas (aka Gunnerblog):

Wenger's fierce beliefs in developing the youth makes the Emirates Stadium as promising a place for a youngster of Zelalem's talent to grow in as any, and the teenager is already showing vast potential in one day becoming a member of the starting XI.

Young though the midfielder might be, this preseason could lend itself in seeing him either remain at Arsenal with first-team action in mind, or perhaps even farmed out for the same intent. In either eventuality, Saturday provides Zelalem with another chance to convince.

 

Carl Jenkinson

NORWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Carl Jenkinson of Arsenal celebrates scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on May 11, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Mathieu Debuchy may have signed on the dotted line, but Arsenal's shiny new right-back hasn't made it for the journey to Harrison, New Jersey, meaning that Carl Jenkinson is likely to deputise in his stead.

Wenger's most recent purchase will take the position as first choice in the position this term, meaning that Jenkinson will snap at any playing time afforded, which the Mirror's John Cross says should come away from the Emirates:

Despite never gaining genuine prominence in the club's starting XI, Jenkinson does have promise about him, as WhoScored shows:

The Red Bulls are a good test to impress against; weak enough that a trimmed-down Gunners squad such as this can experiment but strong enough to say that any impacts made are well-earned, too.

 

Chuba Akpom

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17:  Chuba Akpom of Arsenal reacts during the FA Youth Cup Semi Final second leg match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on April 17, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Dan Istitene/Getty Images

The only recognisable striking figure in Wenger's squad for Saturday's outing, Chuba Akpom may find himself starting against the Red Bulls after impressing as a half-time substitute against Boreham Wood.

The speedster's mazy dribbling was unsurprisingly at the core of his display, with Football Vines very rightly praising one piece of skill in particular:

Of course, it would be folly to suggest playing time is earned by such flash-in-the-pan brilliance, but after loan spells with Brentford and Coventry earlier this year, Akpom may finally be picking his way into Wenger's reckoning.

With the likes of Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all absent, the 18-year-old will be happy to feature at any interval, and even if another loan away is the best Akpom may hope for this season, those hopes can be helped should he succeed against the New Yorkers.

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