After a season where Arsenal’s most potent attacking weapon from out wide was Bosnian left-back Sead Kolasinac, it’s been little surprise to see Unai Emery’s side searching through the transfer market for a new winger.
Reports in recent weeks have suggested Bournemouth star Ryan Fraser is near the top of the summer shopping list for the Gunners, whilst The Sun claimed Emery himself has urged the club’s board to make a big-money move for Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha.
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But whilst some Arsenal fans are understandably excited at the prospect of seeing the Ivorian join the Emirates, a 19-year-old by the name of Reiss Nelson delivered a timely reminder in England U21’s 3-3 draw with Croatia on Monday night that he could well be the main man for next season.
On the chalkboard
The teenager is so highly-rated by those at the Emirates that former Gunners boss Arsene Wenger remarked back in April 2018: “He has the technical quality needed in the Premier League. He can run at players, he can dribble – you don’t find that a lot.”
Having spent last season on loan in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim, Nelson has admitted that his goal for next season will be trying to break through into the Arsenal first-team.
In his performance against the Croatians, the 19-year-old showed exactly why that is a very realistic possibility indeed. The winger took the game to the opposition whenever he could and he was immediately rewarded for his direct play and positive running when he had his legs clipped inside the penalty area.
He coolly slotted the penalty away and also had some eye-catching runs throughout the match, particularly in the second-half. At one point, having shown his defensive diligence in covering his full-back, Nelson carried the ball a good 40 to 50 yards and earned a free-kick deep inside the opposition half.
The Gunners sorely missed a genuine ball-carrier with pace like Nelson last season, instead heavily relying on Kolasinac to provide width, whilst Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan often occupied spaces like a more conventional number ten.
Nelson had the second-highest number of dribbles and fouls earned for the Young Lions on Monday and was a constant threat to Croatia with his willingness to take a man on. Emery’s side last year looked so one-paced and one-dimensional in attack and it often suffocated the likes of Mesut Ozil, who thrives on speed and movement around him.
Promoting Nelson from within the academy instead of splashing the cash on Zaha would still give the Gunners what they sorely lacked; pace, trickery and an eye for goal.