When Mark Warburton’s Rangers side was confirmed tonight, it was verified what this site claimed earlier today, with a debut for Arsenal’s on-loan youngster Gedion Zelalem.
With hopes high for the US youth star at a mere 18 years old, how would he cope with the pressure of a ‘wet and windy Airdrie on a Wednesday night’?
Well to say this was a man of the match performance barely does it justice; he was the youngest player on the pitch, but played with the maturity of someone 10 years older.
Zelalem completely dictated the middle of the park, with his colleagues trusting him implicitly despite his youth, and the teenager jinked, dribbled, passed, swayed and linked with everyone around him.
Rangers finally have a proper deep-lying playmaker, a player who can put his foot on the ball, slow things down, speed them up, and protect the ball while picking out the right pass.
His assist for striker Martin Waghorn’s goal and Rangers’ second was quite simply sumptuous.
If it was not for Gedion, the excellent Oduwa would have been a major shout for the accolade of the match’s finest performer instead, but Zelalem completely stole the show. The only thing missing was a goal, but it did not matter as his team mates provided five regardless.
This kid has all the ability to go every inch in the game. He is 18, yet completely dominated a match filled with senior professionals – he made Airdrie look pathetic, and the first 30 minutes domination of the ball with Zelalem as the fulcrum saw 90% possession for the visitors.
In truth, once the third went in, most players took their feet off the gas, knowing the match was already won, but that lull in play in the second half did not take the gloss off the new recruit’s display.
Warburton really has proven he is magic by managing to secure this lad from London at Ibrox, and to say Rangers finally have someone they can trust to dominate the middle of the pitch is nothing short of a serious relief.
Whether Gedion Zelalem goes all the way in the sport to the highest levels remains to be seen – he has the tools, and while he has admitted the Arsenal first team is his target, on this display, he will easily be a future Gunner staple.
Unless Warburton can somehow persuade him to stay. He is magic, after all.