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Gedion Zelalem made his first Arsenal appearance since January 2017 this week, with the midfielder featuring as a substitute against Cheltenham Town in the Checkatrade Trophy.
The game may not have gone to plan, with Arsenal, who went down to ten men early on, losing 6-2, but for Zelalem, who has endured much misfortune with injury, it was a significant occasion.
Zelalem, as was to be expected, looked a little rusty, but there were still some hints of the quality that saw him stand out as such a talented prospect in the first place as he played some slick passes.
Arsenal will undoubtedly tread carefully with Zelalem’s comeback for fear of him suffering yet another setback.
When he does start to become increasingly involved, however, Zelalem could well have a significant part to play for an Arsenal U23 side that has struggled in a creative sense in recent games.
Emile Smith Rowe is playing and thriving for the first-team in cup matches but that has meant he hasn’t been available for Freddie Ljungberg’s side for most of their matches of late.
Robbie Burton has had some encouraging performances but was sent off against Cheltenham and there is certainly a void that Zelalem could fill once he is back up to speed.
It remains to be seen just how much Zelalem’s injuries have affected his game, but his penchant for unlocking defences with precise through balls remains very much intact.
By the end of the season Arsenal will have to make a decision on Zelalem’s future, with his contract expiring in the summer.
For now, though, it is simply a case of him continuing to build up his fitness and getting playing time when possible.
Should he be fully sharp by then, there is a possibility that Zelalem could head out on loan in Janaury, but prior to that he could have an important part to play for the U23s.