Ahead of Wednesday's Carabao Cup clash against Leicester, one of the first names on the teamsheet for Arsenal is Reiss Nelson.
Someone who hasn't broken into the senior setup on a regular basis, cup outings such as the one at the King Power Stadium have become the forward's bread and butter. Far off being the best player in the squad, the lineup will be jotted down with Nelson being first pick nevertheless.With the addition of Willian in the summer, the emergence of Gabriel Martinelli who remains sidelined, Nicolas Pepe being the club's most expensive signing and Bukayo Saka's versatility to play pretty much anywhere other than centre-half, Nelson has fallen way down the pecking order.
Then you've got Emile Smith Rowe who can play out wide, and of course Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is a fully fledged winger now.
Slim pickings for the youngster.
Said opportunities will be even harder to come by should the Gunners crash out of the competition at the first hurdle, leaving early FA Cup clashes and the occasional Europa League group stage encounter among his only likely senior minutes.
He's got to go, but not on a permanent deal.
With a healthy dose of Hale End academy graduates making the step up into the Arsenal senior fold, Nelson is fluttering around the bottom end of the pile in the current squad. Saka is an almost regular, Eddie Nketiah was preferred to Alexandre Lacazette at the end of last season and Joe Willock made more appearances than any other member of the squad in 2019/20.
Nelson, by contrast, made just 24 outings across all competitions, 12 from as a starter. After scoring seven goals in 23 Bundesliga outings on loan at Hoffenheim the season before, the general consensus was that it's time for him to make an imposing mark on the first team, not a minor imprint.
That didn't materialise and with just a short while left of the transfer window remaining, it's been claimed by David Ornstein that he could be on the move.
There is a quite distinct divide down the middle of the fanbase when it comes to opinions of Nelson. In Column A, he hasn't done enough to warrant a spot in the team and should be moved on. In Column B, it's too soon to make a snap judgement on him given that he hasn't even hit 21 yet.
The latter point is key: Nelson is still just 20 years old. His 39 senior Arsenal appearances haven't exactly set the world alight, but there is the inner workings of an exciting talent there who simply needs regular game time.
Mikel Arteta has nothing to lose by sending him out on loan, but plenty to gain - we all know why players are sent on loan, so no need rehashing evergreen explanations - but for Nelson, it must be to an English club.
His German experience was a good learning curve, but he started drifting out of the team for a perceived lack of dedication. It's no excuse, but it indicates he favours the comfort of local culture and his best football would come on these shores. It's got to be in the Premier League.
Where doesn't really matter. He's not going to be plucked up by a (potential) top four rival - he isn't good enough - so just as long as he can accrue regular minutes then the situation is a win-win.
Willian won't be a regular starter forever - his age and inconsistencies strongly suggest that to be the case - so returning to north London, one can hope, as an improved player 12 months down the line is the ideal scenario. Considering he isn't even making the squad at present, it's a straightforward move.
Source : 90min