While I understand it is difficult to make a jump to the senior team and that too one as competitive as Arsenal, where you’ve got too many expectations on you, but I seriously do not understand why Nelson hasn’t taken it to the next level till now. Of course, he has shown flashes of brilliance but definitely not on a consistent basis. That’s also due to Pepe being his competition, Arsenal’s generally terrible year and Nelson not getting consistent chances.
I first saw Nelson live during the Emirates Cup where tormented Benefica’s LB, Eliseu. Mind you, Eliseu was playing for Portugal then and had won the Euros the previous year. So, it wasn’t random kid. Nelson rampaged on Eliseu’s flank time and time again and set up a goal for Giroud.
This is what the Portuguese paper Mais Futebol had to say about Nelson (translated):
Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the next great players in the world. He is 17 years old, since 2008 linked to Arsenal and signed a professional contract in December 2016. Arséne Wenger took the pre-season tour of Australia and was dazzled by the teenager. He launched it against Benfica and Reiss Nelson destroyed Eliseu. Dribbling, speed, unpredictability, assistance for Oliver Giroud’s goal. This one is not deceiving, it really has everything it takes to be one of the best in the world.
He play RWB (or RB?) that game and that’s where he started off in our EL campaign and he was doing relatively good enough to start murmurs of him being a decent option on the right side of the defence especially as Jenko and Ox had left (perma/temp) that season and Debuchy had been seriously injured twice/thrice by then. He brushed off the idea with an Insta story.
With the season being a trainwreck, Arsenal fans were expecting Nelson to make his PL debut every single matchday and he did make his debut against Watford as RW (?). He had a quiet game before being subbed off – none of his explosiveness or trickery. He played really safe.
And from then till now, we are yet to see the best of Nelson. Yes, he does beat a man occasionally, contributes with goals and assists sometimes but the Nelson that terrorized Eliseu and PL 2 defences needs to step up & show up for Arsenal now more than ever. The game at Liverpool showed that he’s a confidence player, he was a changed player after the assist and goal. With Pepe now settled to Arsenal and PL, there’s no need for Pepe to acclimatize by starring in useless EL and League Cup games and those will be the chances that Nelson gets to prove his mettle.