Reiss Nelson targets new Arsenal contract in defiant vow over future after start of renaissance

Reiss Nelson targets new Arsenal contract in defiant vow over future after start of renaissance

When Reiss Nelson returned to Arsenal this summer, it looked like the writing was on the wall for his time at Emirates Stadium.

Once the darling of the club’s academy, Nelson had spent last season on loan at Feyenoord and the expectation externally was that he would be sold.

Such a possibility, however, was never in his thinking and instead he wanted to stay to fight for his future, even though his contract expires next summer.

“I’ve never doubted myself at this football club,” says Nelson, who hopes his two goals against Nottingham Forest on Sunday will be the start of his Arsenal renaissance. “Arsenal is a team that I’ve been at since I was eight years old and I have a very, very strong bond and love for the club.

“Of course, there has been times where I’ve been a bit down when I haven’t played or been on the bench, but my plan has never been for me to leave the club or say that I have no future here - and I will do everything possible to get there.”

Nelson took both his goals well against Forest and the hope from those at Arsenal will be that the 22-year-old can now fulfil the potential he showed in his youth.

Renaissance: Reiss Nelson notched twice for Arsenal off the bench against Nottingham Forest (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Renaissance: Reiss Nelson notched twice for Arsenal off the bench against Nottingham Forest (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

After a few weary Arsenal displays, Nelson helped inject a burst of energy into the team and could provide some much-needed depth to the squad in what will be a gruelling season.

When he was coming through the academy, Nelson was a standout performer and many, including Mikel Arteta, were convinced he was destined for the top. Arteta coached a young Nelson when he was doing his coaching badges towards the end of his playing career.

When the Spaniard returned to Arsenal as head coach in 2019, he was quick to put Nelson into his first-team squad. But the winger failed to shine and he has since been overtaken by younger academy graduates Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.

Arteta, though, has not given up on Nelson and the fact he thrust him on against Forest on Sunday after Saka suffered an injury was telling.

“I spoke with the boss before the start of the season and he was very clear with me,” said Nelson. “He said he has seen a transition in my game and my attitude and just my whole profile as a player, which he really likes.

“And he wants to bring that into the team and he thinks that can really benefit the team, and there were no talks with me about leaving in the summer.”

Nelson feels like he has “matured” following his loan at Feyenoord, and during his time in the Netherlands he showed glimpses of the player many youth coaches thought he would be.

He has always been blessed with plenty of talent and some, including Arteta, argue his growth may have stalled because things came too easily for him at youth level. Indeed, it was not uncommon to watch academy games and see a young Nelson skip past multiple opposition defenders before scoring.

That will not be the case at senior level but the feeling at Arsenal is that there is a new maturity to his game. He does not turn 23 until December and is dreaming about turning things around at Arsenal and signing a new contract.

“I only have some months left on my contract but at this moment of time, getting a new deal, of course, that would be amazing and I would love to commit to the club,” Nelson said. “But I’m just really, really focused on doing everything I can possible just to do the right stuff.

“And if I get to play for the team to do well, of course, it’s hard coming in for 5-10 minutes and of course, I would love to play much, much longer. But any opportunity I get, I'm going to try and take and just do my very best and just keep helping the team really.”

Nelson certainly made the most of his opportunity on Sunday and he will hope it is the first of many.