The Manchester-born 21-year-old has already shown that he is a player capable of playing in a number of defensive roles during the nine appearances he has made in our colours this term, operating at centre-half and left-back at various times.
And he admits he’s happy to play different roles as it will strengthen his own game, add more strings to his bow and give the manager more options should he be called upon.
“These days it’s useful for a defender to be able to play in a variety of positions,” said Zeki, who joined us from Standard Liege in January, 2013. “I’m learning to play the two positions, full-back and centre-back, and that’s a good thing for me. I’m also trying to get used to playing both sides of the defence as well. It’s tough, but it’s about getting your bearings right and your positioning correct.
“It means I’ll be ready should I ever be needed to fill in. I’ve had a few opportunities this season and I just want to stay in the set-up now, keep working hard and whenever the chances come by, try to take them and keep progressing.
“You have to always do the right thing, whatever the game, whether it’s first team, Under-21s and of course in training. You have to train how you intend to play.”
Having only made 13 senior appearances before his arrival, six at his first club Manchester United and a further seven in Belgium with Standard, Zeki is one short of double figures already for us. His debut came as a substitute for Kyle Walker in our Europa League play-off win here against Dinamo Tbilisi in August, his first start was against Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup, while his full Premier League debut came in our last game of 2013, featuring at left-back in our 3-0 defeat of Stoke City.
He puts those early opportunities to showcase his qualities down to a good pre-season, when he was selected in a number of our friendly matches and impressed enough to earn his chance.
“Pre-season was important for me, that stood me in good stead,” he added. “I got the opportunity to play and that gave me the confidence to take into the season. The foundations were built in that pre-season and once the campaign started, I was given the chance to play in the Europa League and Capital One Cup.”
While Zeki enjoyed his experience of Premier League football in our colours against the Potters and look more than comfortable in those elite surroundings, it was a very different story on his top flight debut for us. He came on as a half-time substitute in our clash here with Liverpool when we were already 2-0 down and saw at first-hand just how punishing a division it can be as the Reds ran out 5-0 winners in the end.
“The Premier League is the biggest and best in the world and it’s where everyone wants to play, so for me to get games in the league is excellent for me and my development,” said Zeki.
“That Liverpool game though was a tough result to take. I was buzzing to come on and make my debut but I was absolutely gutted afterwards. A few of the lads had experienced a defeat like that before in their careers, but it was a first for me at home. It was difficult, especially as your debut should be one to remember. However, I was soon back against Stoke, played the full game and we won, so that was a great boost for my confidence.
“Now I’m just looking to get more chances between now and the end of the season to show what I can do. I’m certainly ready.”