The displays from Reiss Nelson may have put a lot of people on alert, especially Eliseu who is surely in fear of further damage to his career at the moment. Taking a look at his attributes would be educational given how fast he seems to be adapting to the senior game.
With the evidence that we have from the minutes in pre-season, he has an eye for a pass and has a good understanding of where to be on the pitch. The latter is perhaps a quality which has been noted by Mesut Ozil, who has apparently taken the youngster under his wing. Young Nelson told the match programme last matchday that Ozil could not believe that he was just 17 years old and that it was a strange feeling getting tips and advice from the best in the world. An advantage of having the best in the business at your club, eh?
His USP though, is his ability to effortlessly beat a man and run past. Time and again in the friendlies he has displayed his willingness to use his burst of speed and dribbling to run at and more often than not, past a man. Fans all over love a player who can get people off their feet, someone like Alexis for example or Alex Oxlade Chamberlain.
With the mention of Chamberlain comes the inevitable comparisons. While physicality obviously sets the two players wide apart, I would suggest this is just the smaller, less important part of why Nelson could be the real thing.
Firstly, the boy has an affinity for the ball that becomes apparent when you watch him motioning to much, much senior players for the ball. He seems to know where he wants to go and who he wants to pass to as soon as he gets the ball. There is a certain decisiveness to his actions, evident when he twice beat his fullback to get a cross in. Evidently the cross was not top quality but that is not the point. Chamberlain seems to dilly dally too much on the ball allowing for his marker or his tracker to close down possible options for him, thus disadvantaging him for the final ball or attacking movement.
Secondly, at 17 years of age Chamberlain was not the player we see today. His decisions were generally much more in the Alexis variety than the Ozil. He regularly dribbled into corners which had no exit and from there it was only ever going to be a corner or a goal kick. Nelson is already the more mentally developed of the two players at such a young age, and maybe marginally so. It is hard to even make this point because we have never seen him against top quality defenses in a big game, a situation which Chamberlain has faced many a time. Remember, I do not say that Chamberlain does not produce the final ball, he evidently does. What I am saying is that if we gave both players 10, 100 or 1000 chances at the same situation it is more likely that Reiss Nelson comes out with a larger number of chances created or final third passes completed than Chamberlain.
Gifted with a silky touch and the grace of a gazelle, Nelson is a product that Hale End should be proud of. Whether he makes it at Arsenal or elsewhere it is clear this is a player capable of holding his own even at the top level. By top level I do not mean the Champions League final of course, I mean a game of the level of the Premier League.
Why, you ask? Because in the recent past and indeed, for most of my Arsenal supporting time, the academy products that have stepped out from the shade of Hale End have mostly failed to make it at this level. Other academies in the country such as Southampton’s or United’s more regularly produce league level players. Both are extremely prolific and even when their products are discarded by the home team, they go on to have respectable careers in the Premier League. If we begin to produce more of such players regularly it can only be beneficial for us in the long run.
Reiss Nelson is a player in the Ozil mould which the maestro himself has recognized while watching him through training sessions as well as on the pitch. Hopefully the tips and tricks he learns from the German are put to good use in the Arsenal red sooner rather than later and for many, many years to come.