Gunner Thoughts

Reiss Nelson: A Gunner for the Future or a Willock MK. 2

A new contract offer seems likely, but what will the terms be and what is the intent? Is Reiss a Gunner for the future or headed down the Willock path?

The spotlight has been on Reiss Nelson this week and it’s hard to argue he hasn’t earned every headline. He came up with the stunning match-winning performance and gives Arsenal another 3 points, adding their impressive 63-point tally.

The team looks impressive, the 2.42 points-per-game clip IS impressive, and Arsenal continue to show the world they literally do not need their star striker to compete for a title.

Oh, and their star striker’s return from a three-month absence is on the horizon. 

The substitutes were fantastic versus Bournemouth, as Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, and Ben White all contributed to Arsenal goals in the comeback win. The statement from Nelson is perfect timing for Reiss AND Arsenal, as the team throws themselves back into Europa League competition this week. 

Arteta took a risk earlier in the season to not rest players in the group stages but have it be worth it in the early months of this calendar year

I said he would be judged in the long term and early signs suggest the move was entirely worth it. While others had to juggle multiple competitions on the back of the World Cup, Arsenal havent had a Europa League match since November

With the competition back, Arsenal will now immediately contend with four matches in 10 days. It’s a congested schedule others have had for a month. If Arsenal move beyond Sporting Lisbon, they will add two more games in April – making their run of matches Liverpool, Knockout 1st Leg, West Ham, Knockout 2nd leg, Southampton, Manchester City.

It’s becoming crucial that Arsenal’s depth gets firing so the squad has as many options at their disposal as possible. 

Reiss finding health and form at this stage is a huge boon to the team and himself. It’s come at the exact moment he will have wished for and likely promises him more opportunities to play in the near future.

After all, Nelson has a considerable amount to play for this season.

Slated to become a free agent at the end of this season, Reiss Nelson’s future to up in the air. Usually players in this situation are likely to walk away and play the market, but there’s reason to believe Arsenal’s Hale End product would be willing to stay if Arsenal hand him a reasonable terms sheet. A term sheet he can influence with continued performances.

Hit the stratosphere: Reiss Nelson 2022/23 Stats

So far this season, Nelson has showcased:

  • 8 matches played, 3 starts, 340 minutes (3.8 90s)
  • 6 G/A 3 goals, 3 assists (1 g/a every 56 minutes and 40 seconds)
  • 3.68 shots/90
  • 3.6 shot creating actions/90
  • 1.08 goal creating actions/90

The whole stat sheet gets turned on its head and launches him into the stratosphere when you look at the Premier League alone: 

  • 3 matches played, 0 starts, 87 minutes (0.96 90s) 
  • 5 g/a in 87 minutes played (1 g/a every 17.4 minutes)
  • 5 shots/90
  • 9.31 shot creating actions/90
  • 3.10 goal creating actions/90

Now, is it sustainable? No, of course not. If it were, one, his numbers in the first list, when you combine with cups and Europa League, would be better; two, we would be looking at the early days of the greatest player to walk the earth. 

But is it enough to be giving Reiss’ future a hard think? Absolutely. Yes, I’m telling you there’s a chance.

Looking to the future

The question is less, “will Arsenal offer him a new contract”, that seems likely — barring catastrophe. If anything, Arsenal will want to retain the control they have over a 23-year-old, English player’s future. In the current market, especially within this league, there is value in that age and nationality alone.

The questions more worthy of consideration could be:

  • What are the terms?
  • What are the intents?

These are the two questions Reiss is going to try to influence the rest of this season.


We know he has missed over 100 days this season through injury, an unfortunate setback for a player that spent significant time on loan the previous season. But unfortunately a common occurrence for him in his young career.

In the 19/20 season, Reiss missed roughly 90 days with injury, and in 20/21 he missed another 2 months. While on loan, through Corona virus, a groin injury, and knocks, he missed roughly two months as well.

It might not be enough to classify him as an injury-case waiting to happen, but it’s enough to mark down as a concern. But as the stats show, when he can play, he has the ability to have real influence.

If he can stay healthy and continue to contribute to this campaign — even at the levels of his combined stat lines — seeing the club offer him a contract with similar terms to what they offered Eddie Nketiah, slightly reduced in salary, would make some sense.

This could put him between £50,000-75,000 per week, and seal Arsenal’s control over his next 5 years. This would be a 3-5x pay raise, plus mean he has the opportunity to compete for a place within a big squad as he moves toward his prime.

The only hang up here could be his believe that that salary is too low to commit to until he’s 28. Perhaps he looks for shorter terms and more power down the line to renegotiate. I think Arsenal would play ball with that and have a good amount of leverage within these negotiations.


Assuming he signs, the intents wouldn’t need to be locked in now, but one would imagine the clubs has to lay out some intent or growth plan for him and his agent. So what would they be?

The underlying message would likely be the opportunity to compete for a spot within in a young club side already in the hunt for top honors.

But working against Reiss is probably the fact that Arsenal fans and coaches have seen quite a bit of him – not unlike Joe Willock. He’s been around the club, around the first team, and around the blocks a fair bit. That is to say, in some ways, we know what we are going to get from him and how he fits. This could lead to a situation, not unlike Joe Willock’s, where it becomes clear that his level is one of a good professional but not one that’s going to crack into a regular role in a side playing at the level we want.

When this happened to Joe Willock, Arsenal loaned him to Newcastle, watched him have the season of his career, and parted ways amicably, with a bag of money to boot.

It’s impossible to say at the moment that that is the direction of travel of Reiss, but it’s hard to say there aren’t similarities on the surface.

If there are exciting aspects to Reiss, it’s that he already has gone out on loan, he is approaching an age in which he reaches early stages of his prime — and the build out of physical attributes that comes with it — and that we are already seeing signs of his physical and technical-self merging into a highly effective winger.

He plays the role more traditionally than Martinelli’s inclination — or instruction — to invert, which gives Nelson space on the wings to run at defenders and use his size the edge past and create. He’s a two-footed player and already proving to be one that helps put the ball in the back of the net. This weekend we caught a glimpse of the full extent of his technical ability, combined with his cool, calm, demeanor and now it’s about him showcasing that consistently.

If there is a fault that lies within some of his young, Hale End counterparts like Willock or Nketiah, it’s that the distance between their ceiling of play and floor was too far and their consistency to play at that ceiling too infrequent.

Nelson has shown us all his ceiling of play, those Premier League stats are beyond incredible. Now is an opportunity to bring those levels time and time again. He must know that his opportunities to do so will be limited to the Europa League and substitute minutes. Within those, he will attempt to shift the minds of some and capture the attention of Mikel.

Will he be someone that contributes to Arsenal’s next four title campaigns or will he be retained just as long as it takes to find a suitor?

If I had to place a bet right now, I’d wage on a year or two more and then the Willock route, but the numbers are too exciting to ignore. Now is his time to capitalize on the spotlight and carve out a future.

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