Arsenal seemed doomed with the news of Gabriel Jesus’ injury, but still they managed to keep their hands first place. Then, both our second and third choice CFs ended up with injuries meaning they missed game time; Eddie Nketiah with an ankle injury and Leandro Trossard with a groin injury.
Enter, Reiss Nelson. Nelson was the hero of the hour last Saturday, and after a late substitution against Bournemouth, he went on to score the game winner in the 97th minute which maintained Arsenal’s five point lead at the top. He was then duly rewarded with a place in the starting XI in Lisbon, against Sporting on Thursday which saw a 2 – 2 draw with everything still to play for at the Emirates this coming Thursday. Nelson can boast 5 G/A in the Premier League this season having played just 84 minutes, with him having bagged a goal and assist against Bournemouth, and two goals and an assist against Nottingham Forest back in October.
Nelson has been a lifelong Gooner. He first signed for the club when he was just nine years old and made such an impression on the coaches that he was regularly moved up to squads above his age group. His first professional contract with Arsenal was signed on 10th December 2016, his 17th birthday. Wenger then went on to include him in the 2017-18 pre-season tour squad.
His first senior appearance came against Bayern Munich in a friendly, and made his first competitive appearance for the first team in the Community Shield against Chelsea where he came on as a substitute. Arsenal won 4 – 1 on penalties. As for his debut in Europe, that came on 14th September 2017 as he came on as a substitute for Theo Walcott in the Europa League against FC Köln. His season with the U23s was impressive as he scored nine and assisted three in just 11 appearances which contributed to Arsenal winning the PL2 in the 2017-18 season. His Premier League debut came on 20th January 2018 as a substitute against Crystal Palace in a 4 – 1 win, and his first start came on 8th April 2018 where he was substituted off for Jack Wilshere as Arsenal beat Southampton 3 – 2.
Nelson’s first loan spell was for the entirety of the 2018-19 season to 1899 Hoffenheim, where he made 23 appearances and scored seven goals. He impressed former manager Unai Emery so much that he was promoted to the first team and given the 24 shirt. He started the first two games of the 2019-20 season; against Newcastle United and Burnley. His first Premier League goal came under current manager, Mikel Arteta, as he started against Liverpool in a 2 – 1 victory. He was also named in the squad that won the FA Cup in 2020. Arteta clearly felt he would benefit from another loan, so he was sent to Dutch side Feyenoord for the 2021-22 season where he made 21 appearances and score 2 goals.
That brings us up to the present, where Arteta clearly thinks he is worthy of a place in the squad after being such an effective substitute. Having Nelson back in the squad allows Martinelli to play in the CF role and he takes on the LW position. Nelson is only 23 years old and clearly has a future at Arsenal, and competition with Balogun when he returns from his loan at Reims will help both young players to continue to elevate their game. It is refreshing to see another academy success story, and after his winner against Bournemouth, I think that goal will be one that Arsenal fans remember for a long time.
Written by: Abby Goodson (@_abbygoodson)