In what appears to be a snowballing trend in Germany’s top-tier, another teenage English talent has hooked up with a Bundesliga club. This time, Arsenal winger Reiss Nelson has joined Hoffenheim on loan until the end of the season.
Nelson follows in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho, Ademola Lookman and Reece Oxford as the latest Premier League youngster to make the trip across to mainland Europe, adding to the ranks which also include Wolfsburg’s Kaylen Hinds and Gladbach’s Madela Egbo.
The eighteen year old has been on Arsenal’s books for several years, playing for both the Under 18s and Under 23s before he was given a taste of first-team football last under Arsène Wenger last season.
His “breakout” year in the youth ranks came in the 2016/17 campaign. Nelson’s second year playing in the Premier League 2 saw him appear sixteen times for Arsenal’s Under 23s, only missing forty-six minutes of action during these matches. Nelson found the net six times in the competition and notched up a further six assists, whilst also featuring in the UEFA Youth League.
Last season, Nelson’s PL2 stats were even more impressive. A nine goal haul in eleven games justified his involvement with the senior team, which saw Wenger hand the winger his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace in January. Nelson played a total of three top-flight games last term and was a regular in Arsenal’s Europa League squads, making eight appearances in total and starting three times during the group stages.
He’s impressed Wenger’s successor Unai Emery. However, the Spaniard didn’t see Nelson fitting into his first team plans this season and decided that a loan away from England was the best option for his progression:
It’s a very big chance for him and the level there is important…he is very young, he needs to take a new level to play, a new level also to take minutes, to take experience…It’s a good chance for him to take minutes in and play, and then come back with us…
Primarily a right-winger, Nelson can also play on the left and as a central attacking midfielder. He fits the bill for Julian Nagelsmann, who has been quick to praise his new signing, comparing him to former Hoffenheim loanee Serge Gnabry, whom returned to Munich over the summer. Nagelsmann stated that
Reiss has similar traits to Serge, which is his pace in one-on-one situations…These are qualities that we don’t have much of in the squad. It was my wish that we replenish those qualities again
In my Hoffenheim season preview, I predicted that the loss of Gnabry could be catastrophic to the Sinsheim club’s year. If Nagelsmann truly rates Nelson as much as it seems, then it appears that Die Kraichgauer have found an apt replacement and we’ll be seeing Nelson regularly on the team sheet.
Take this how you will, but according to “FIFA 18”, the strengths of Nelson’s game lies in his pace and dribbling ability, signs of any solid winger.
Nagelsmann‘s goal is to have Nelson seamlessly fill the void left by Gnabry, which would see him form an exciting partnership with Andrej Kramarićm Adam Szakai and co. However, with the new pressures of Champions League football, it’s far more likely that we’ll see Nelson occupying his natural wide position in a rotational role. With Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri both still in the treatment room, Nelson may even find himself thrust into the centre of the park. There’s an array of possibilities for Nelson’s maiden Bundesliga season, and after Hoffenheim’s win Saturday against SC Freiburg, the young Gunner wil have the international break to find his way with his new club.
The option of Nelson remaining at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena on a permanent basis appears minimal, as he reportedly signed a new four-year contract with The Gunners before leaving North London.
The Bundesliga continues to prove itself as being a “finishing” school for young talent from across the globe. Working with Julian Nagelsmann during his final year at Hoffenheim will do nothing but wonders for Nelson’s development. His experience in playing European football will be extremely beneficial to achtzehn99 this year. If his countrymen predecessors are anything to go by, then Reiss Nelson will undoubtedly be another young and ambitious star to watch out for this season.
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