Zech Medley: a talented prospect in need of a loan spell
By Rob Worthington
Usually, when the most promising academy prospects at a big club like Arsenal reach their late teens, they come to the realisation that youth football is not the place where they are going to develop into a star. 19-year-old Zech Medley, a regular starter at centre-back for the Arsenal under-23s, must be beginning to feel the same way.
Whilst centre-backs tend to develop later than most other areas of the pitch, Medley must be beginning to want some first-team opportunities. The Englishman, who joined Arsenal’s youth set-up from Chelsea in 2016, is assured on the ball and is a huge physical presence standing at 6ft 5inch. His talent is clear for everyone who has watched him to see. However, despite promising outings against Qarabag and Vorskla in the Europa League last season and an apparent consideration by Unai Emery at the beginning of this campaign to promote the youngster to the first-team squad after an impressive pre-season, he has failed to break into the Arsenal first-team set up. For me, it is clear that Medley needs to move on from youth football and gain some experience through a loan spell either in the Championship or in Germany if he is to fulfil his potential.
The Championship is a great place for a young central defender to gain experience in the men’s game. Just ask Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori, he’ll assure you that this is the case. Last season, playing under Frank Lampard at Derby County, the young centre-back made huge strides in his development. His 44 games in a Derby shirt gave him the experience he needed to return to Chelsea ready to become a competent squad member.
Tomori was rewarded for his excellent development via a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad in late 2019. If Medley takes a similar path, given his ability, there is little to suggest that he wouldn’t develop in a similar manner, so this is definitely a potential route which should be explored. Another brilliant place for young English talents to mature is the Bundesliga. Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson can definitely vouch for this. Another British Chelsea loanee who has prospered playing as a central defender on their loan spell is RB Liepzig’s Ethan Ampadu. After joining the Bundesliga outfit in January, the 19-year-old has been given the opportunity by Julien Nagelsmann to play Champions League football and grow in a competitive Bundesliga.
Additionally, Ademola Lookman’s development advanced majorly during loan spell a few seasons ago with Liepzig and our very own Konstantinos Mavropanos is excelling for Nürnberg in Germany’s second division. Germany is clearly a great place for young talents from English clubs to learn their trade at a higher level. Personally, this is where I’d like Medley’s loan spell to be situated. If he does end up prospering through a loan spell, I could see Medley gaining a place in our first team squad, given the lack of quality we possess in this area. Left-footed centre-backs are actually quite a rare commodity in football so it’d be great to see Medley gain experience elsewhere and stamp his authority over the left-sided centre-half role which has been a problem position at Arsenal for a little while now.
Best case scenario, he comes back ready for the first team, worst case scenario, the club come to the realisation he isn’t good enough for Arsenal and can demand a reasonable fee for the youngster. Give him the opportunity Arsenal.