Heading into the 2020/21 season, Mikel Arteta is aiming to have options in all areas of the pitch.
Centre-back may be crowded with the impending signing of Gabriel Magalhaes, but further forward, the arrival of Willian brought much-needed depth in the three positions behind the striker. Able to play off both flanks and centrally, the Brazilian offers something very few first team players can currently.
One that could offer that, however, was Reiss Nelson. The 20-year-old has been used more frequently as a winger – off the right and left – since breaking into the side in the 2017/18 season, also enjoyed profitable spells as a No.10. for the Under-18s, Under-23s and even Hoffenheim.
After making 22 appearances in all competitions last season, with injuries and the signing of Nicolas Pepe impacting his game time, Nelson will face more direct competition for his place in the side with Willian. Even if the long-term goal is for the 32-year-old to guide the youngster and those around him into the side over time, there will be short-term impacts.
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Despite the challenges that may surface due to this, Nelson’s response on the pitch has been nothing short of impressive. During the restart, he started just twice, but still managed to lay a marker down for Arteta heading into the upcoming season – which continued in his second half cameo against MK Dons.
Focusing on his performances during the restart first, it was the application both with and without the ball that stood out whenever he took to the pitch. In his first start against Norwich City, Granit Xhaka was key in reminding him of these duties, screaming “Reiss, again! again!” when Nelson thought his pressing job had finished, but him seeing that specific job through to completion became a reality in his next start.