Arsenal academy winger makes full Premier League debut for Southampton

Southampton's English midfielder Nathan Tella (C) takes a shot past Leeds United's Spanish defender Diego Llorente (R) during the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Southampton at Elland Road in Leeds, northern England on February 23, 2021. (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Southampton's English midfielder Nathan Tella (C) takes a shot past Leeds United's Spanish defender Diego Llorente (R) during the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Southampton at Elland Road in Leeds, northern England on February 23, 2021. (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Arsenal academy winger Nathan Tella made his first Premier League start for Southampton against Leeds United on Tuesday.

LEEDS, ENGLAND: Nathan Tella of Southampton is fouled by Diego Llorente of Leeds United, leading to a penalty which is later overturned by VAR during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Southampton at Elland Road on February 23, 2021. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
LEEDS, ENGLAND: Nathan Tella of Southampton is fouled by Diego Llorente of Leeds United, leading to a penalty which is later overturned by VAR during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Southampton at Elland Road on February 23, 2021. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Nathan Tella spent the vast majority of his youth career with Arsenal, playing for the Gunners for a full decade before departing in 2017. He spent time on trial with various clubs after that, before joining Southampton.

Almost four years later, the 21-year-old made his first Premier League start for the Saints on Tuesday night. He featured in the lineup at right-midfield, facing Leeds United at Elland Road.

The former Gunner was involved in controversy midway through the first half when he burst past a defender in the penalty area. The referee initially pointed to the spot, before overturning his decision following a VAR review.

Dribbling was certainly Tella’s biggest strength on the night, completing four of his five attempted take-ons. He spurned a good opportunity to score himself, but many of the Southampton fans seemed disappointed when he came off early in the second half.

Even though Southampton were 1-0 down at the time, the fans clearly thought Tella was one of their better players. They ended up losing 3-0.

Writing on Twitter, Jeorge Bird pointed out that Arsenal’s 2015 scholarship intake contains a lot of players playing at a high level, from Donyell Malen (PSV) to Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock, Joshua Dasilva (Brentford), and now Nathan Tella.

The club’s academy staff deserve credit for that, even if it’s a shame that none of them are currently starting regularly for Arsenal.