September 18, 2021

Arsenal youngster Nelson ready to fight for starting place

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The 20-year-old is not overawed by the possible arrival of big-name signings in north London as he targets a regular spot in the starting XI

Arsenal academy graduate Reiss Nelson says he is ready to stay and fight for a starting place at Emirates Stadium this season.

The 20-year-old has been in and around the Gunners first-team squad for three years now, having made his senior debut in the 2017 Community Shield against Chelsea at Wembley.

He has made 39 appearances in all competitions in that time, as well as spending time out on loan at Bundesliga side Hoffenheim.

The England U21 international began last season as part of the senior squad under Unai Emery and remained there when the Spaniard was sacked and replaced by compatriot Mikel Arteta in December.

Arteta’s arrival sparked an upturn in the club’s fortunes, culminating in their FA Cup final triumph against Chelsea, followed up by their penalty shootout out victory against Liverpool in the Community Shield on Saturday.

The former Manchester City coach has already recruited Brazilian forward Willian from Chelsea and has been linked with a number of other players as he looks to build a squad that can compete for further honours.

Despite the threat of added competition, Nelson says he has no intention of leaving the club or seeking a loan move.

“For me it’s about getting myself in the starting XI,” he told the club’s website.

“The boss has made a lot of changes and brought a lot of top players into the team and I feel like that can only help us, but I want to fight for my position, be hungry and get a spot in that starting XI.”

Arteta demonstrated the faith he has in Nelson by allowing the youngster to take the first penalty in Arsenal’s shootout win at Wembley on Saturday, which he confidently dispatched into the bottom corner.

Nelson says he wanted to take a debut spot-kick in their 2017 Community Shield win, but saw his request turned down by then boss Arsene Wenger.

So when the opportunity arose once more, he didn’t want to let it slip by.

“I really wanted to take a penalty [against Chelsea in 2017] but I think I was 17 at the time and the boss [Wenger] didn’t let me take it,” he added.

“So I said to myself if I ever get the opportunity to take one again then I’ll be the first one and I’ll be confident and just pick a spot and hit it.

“I got an opportunity, went to Mikel and said I’ll take it, then I was brave and he let me take it.

“It was a bit weird because the walk is so long, but as I got to the goal it seemed fairly big, so I thought let me just hit it, hit a spot and hope for the best. It went in! It’s a big confidence boost and to start a season like that is very big for all the young players.

“It’s amazing that we’ve got another trophy and now we need to keep it going throughout the season.”