After making his first start for Arsenal against Doncaster Rovers, and his third competitive appearance of the season for the Gunners, Reiss Nelson has drawn a lot of attention recently.
Former coach Tony Simpson, head of grassroots club Moonshot FC, is one person who is pleased to see how well Nelson is doing. The 17-year-old was named PL2 player-of-the-month after scoring five goals in the first four games in August for the youth teams. Now Reiss has six in five matches, and appearances in the Europa League, Community Shield and League Cup.
Tony Simpson told football.london that he knew from the start that Nelson was too good to remain at grassroots level, saying: “As soon as he hit our pitches, I knew I wasn’t going to keep him. He only lasted with us for about half a season, he was that good.
“Everyone was looking at him. Word got around quickly, all you could hear was Reiss Nelson, Reiss Nelson, Reiss Nelson.
“We always knew he would move up quickly. A lot of boys have progressed onto pro level from my club and Reiss is one of them. We’ve had others go to Millwall, Fulham, Palace, Charlton. Moonshot is well renowned for producing boys for academy level.”
Simpson has a lot of good things to say about the football that Nelson is showing he can play now as well: “If you watch him today, and I know he’s working to rules of how the manager wants him to play, you can see he just believes in his ability – and he’s always had that ability and flair.
“He’s very progressive in the way he plays, he’s always had that. He loves to open up the game. You can’t give him the ball in the box, because he will hurt you.
“He didn’t get scouted for his passing, he got scouted because he got the ball in midfield and boom! He went forward. He’s done that from youth age. He went past players like they weren’t there. He’s always had that ability.
“It’s great to see how he’s progressed. I’m very proud of him.”
Whilst Reiss found things a bit more difficult playing at wing-back behind Theo Walcott against Doncaster, he’s still one of the most exciting young players in the academy at the moment.
Arsène Wenger said in the pre-match programme for the Doncaster game: “You have to be convinced, to play a boy at 17 years of age, that he is a special player.”
Wenger was talking about Jack Wilshere, but the same now applies to Reiss, after he got a start at the same age.
The Arsenal boss clearly believes in him, and with the support of the manager you’d expect the chances to continue to come as the season goes on.