As Arsenal progressed through the 2020/21 preseason it looked as though Reiss Nelson would finally get his chance to have a meaninful impact for the Gunners. Then the club signed Willian and Nelson’s season quickly took a turn for the worst, often barely even able to make the bench. He made just nine appearances for Arsenal, which includes the Community Shield. Needless to say the 21-year-old cannot have a repeat this year.
Two years before that Nelson was on loan at Hoffenhiem in the Bundesliga, making 29 appearances and scoring eight goals. That successful loan stint saw him return to the Arsenal first team and make a decent impact (22 matches) as the club also welcomed in Pepe that season. But his development has been stunted and with Arsenal’s current depth at the attacking wing positions (Saka, Pepe, Aubamayang, Martinelli, Willian), Nelson needs a season-long loan where he can get consistent minutes. Even if Willian were to leave in the next few weeks, Reiss would still be 5th choice at the moment, and with Arsenal out of Europe, the chances to spread the minutes is limited.
CBS Sports reported over the past week that a trio of Premier League sides (Crystal Palace, Brentford, and Brighton) have joined Bundesliga clubs and Olympiacos as potential homes for Nelson this season. Ideally, Arsenal would like to find a loan move for Reiss and sign him to a contract extension in order to avoid him agreeing with a new club during the January window and leaving over the summer for free.
After seeing how things played out with Serge Gnabry, the Gunners shouldn’t be quick to close the door on Nelson’s potential. In hindsight (or as probably many would have preferred at the start of last season), utilizing Reiss and never signing Willian would have been the better option for the ‘20/21 season.
In the subsequent days, there have been Brighton denial reports and people trying to read into the Instagram posts that Reiss likes. Some have suggested if Brighton were interested, a player swap or player+cash deal for Yves Bissouma might suit the Gunners. But with Arsenal officially announcing Sambi, the Gunners have a lot of right-footed options in CM - Partey, Sambi, Elneny, and AMN. However, if that was where Nelson wanted to move, Bissouma would be a useful midfield addition, especially with Xhaka leaving.
While the most important thing is to find the right fit where Reiss can be a consistent starter, it would be great for him to stay in the Premier League. Any three of the clubs rumored to be interested could end up being great options — but can you imagine Palace attacking with Zaha and Nelson on the flanks under the leadership of Patrick Vieira?
Arsenal had success with in-league loans during the back half of last season, Joe Willock at Newcastle and Ainsley Maitland-Niles at West Brom, and should look to replicate that with Nelson this year. Where would you like to see Reiss Nelson end up this season? Do you think Arsenal should sign him to a new multi-year extension in order to have him as an option heading into next year or a transfer market asset?