It was to huge relief of everyone at Arsenal Football Club when youngster Reiss Nelson put pen to paper finally this summer.
On 31st August, Nelson committed to a new long-term contract at Arsenal before completing a season-long loan switch to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim.
The German outfit are in the Champions League this season, meaning that if Nelson got game time, it would be both at the highest level in Germany and Europe.
Hoffenheim have started this season poorly – winning just 2 out of 7 games and gaining just 1 point from their opening 2 Champions League games. They currently sit bottom of their group, having lost 2-1 at home to Manchester City.
Whilst his playing time so far has been limited – just one start in 4 appearances which he was substituted off at half-time – he has made an impact with 2 goals already.
Nelson is part of a close knit group of successful young England players; including the likes of Jadon Sancho, Ryan Sessegnon, Mason Mount and Phil Foden.
Last year he would have watched on in envy as Sancho began to make a name for himself in Germany, Sessegnon impress in the Championship and Mount be named Player of the Year whilst on loan at Vitesse. Clearly playing time was on his mind as he delayed contract discussions with Arsenal.
Sancho and Mount have recently had call-ups to the England whilst. Whilst it is probably too early for both, it highlights the importance of playing time for development.
Arsenal Wenger used to hold the opinion that 18 – 21 was the most important time for player development, and that during this period it was key to be playing senior football week in week out.
Mount is just 19 and already has 50 senior appearances to his name. Compare that to Ruben Loftus-Cheek who is 22-years old and has played just 60 times for Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
Foden was rated as the most talented youngster amongst his peer group. He won the FIFA U-17 World Cup Golden Ball award in 2017, a tournament that England won with the likes of Sancho and Emile Smith Rowe.
The fact that Mount and Sancho have been called up to the England side shows the importance of game time. They have now moved ahead of Foden in the pecking order, with the Manchester City starlet having played just 31 minutes of Premier League football this season.
Nelson has followed in the footsteps of Mount by seeking game time abroad on loan, rather than sitting in an academy, getting paid to not do very much.
In his fleeting performances for Hoffenheim, he has shown the pace and footwork which many of the followers of Arsenal’s Academy would have known about for some time.
With 2 goals in 90-odd minutes of football for Hoffenheim, it will surely only be a matter of time before he sees regular starts.
In a years time, Arsenal will have returned a 19 year old attacker who has had a season in the Bundesliga. Like Mount and Sancho, he will be benefiting massively from playing.
It will actually be interesting to watch the progress of Arsenal’s two teenage attacking midfielders.
Whilst Nelson pushed for a loan move, Emile Smith Rowe – who is 7 months younger – opted to stay in England, at Arsenal. He has already seen some game time this season in the League Cup and Europa League, but seems some way off starting in the Premier League.
There is certainly space for both Nelson and Smith Rowe in the Arsenal squad next season.
We lack natural wide attacking options. Whilst neither will perhaps be ready to be first choice, you can certainly make a case for them to both be understudy for whoever we play on the wings. Especially with Danny Welbeck set to leave.
The futures bright, the futures Arsenal.