By London correspondent Tony Hughes
Gedion Zelalem has been earmarked by the Arsenal coaching staff as the club’s next emerging star ready to compete for a first-team place.
Arsenal training ground sources have told Football Insider that manager Arsene Wenger believes Zelalem has the potential to be in the Gunners’ first-team squad next season.
There is hope among Wenger and his staff that the 19-year-old central midfielder can make the same impact in 2016-17 as Alex Iwobi has in the current campaign.
Iwobi has started Arsenal’s last three matches ahead of established first-teamers like Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Joel Campbell and scored two goals in a series of promising displays on the left-flank.
Wenger also has high hopes for USA Under-23 international Zelalem, who has spent the season on loan at Rangers.
Zelalem – who has been likened to Cesc Fabregas – will return to Arsenal for pre-season and the coaches will decide whether he is ready to compete for a first-team spot.
He has played a significant part in Rangers’ Scottish championship title triumph, which was sealed on Tuesday night when they beat Dumbarton 1-0 to book their place back into the Premiership.
But manager Mark Warburton strongly suggested that Zelalem and fellow on-loan Premier League player Dominic Ball, whose parent club is Tottenham, will not be members of Rangers squad next season as they attempt to establish themselves in the top flight with the north London giants.
Asked by Sky Sports News HQ on Wednesday morning about the pair, Warburton said: “Two talented young players.
“They will go back to their clubs. They are Tottenham and Arsenal players respectively. Obviously we chat to the clubs about the situation with players but they are loan players that have done a fantastic job for us.
“I hope they enjoyed the experience and they’ll go back to their clubs, I hope, better people and better players.”
Central midfielder Zelalem has made 22 appearances for Rangers this season, 12 of which have been league starts.
He has yet to open his goal account for the Scottish giants but has provided evidence of his creative abilities by supplying eight assists in all competitions.
In other Arsenal transfer news, the Gunners are eyeing a new centre-back who is rated in the £30million bracket.