Nelson: I need to get to grips with defending


Reiss Nelson says he’s grateful for the chance to play alongside Arsenal’s first team stars but knows he must up his game, including defensively, if he’s to nail down a regular starting berth in the coming seasons.

The 17-year-old caught the eye during the Gunners pre-season tour of Australia and China and has since been given the chance to shine in the right wing-back position in Europa League and Carabao Cup matches.

Talking to the Arsenal Weekly Podcast about his swift rise to prominence, Nelson drew attention to the warm welcome he’s had from the club’s senior players and also the areas of his game that he needs to develop.

“All the coaches at Arsenal have helped me a lot, even from my early days at Hale End as well. It was different to come from Hale End to London Colney. The culture at London Colney is so much different because we have a load of world-class first-team players around.

“Alex Iwobi has really helped me and is always making jokes to see if I’m OK. Lacazette is a nice guy as well, Ozil, Hector as well. All of the boys there are great and have really taken me in as a person and a footballer as well.

“I’m pushing to be a first-team player, so everything has come so fast and I’m very grateful. I want to push on, keep pushing and then hopefully I get a first-team spot in the next few years.

“I’ve spoken to the boss a lot and he’s said for this early stage it’s about development because I’m still young. I need to get to grips with defending and then hopefully when I’m older and more mature, I can move further up the field and show everyone what I’ve got.

“I’ve got to give my all, 100 per cent, and my family are really important in helping me do that. I’m always trying to better myself and improve, so it’s just adding the little things and the finishing touches.”

Nelson is expected to start against Red Star Belgrade as the Gunners go in search of the single point that will secure safe passage to the knockout rounds of the Europa League.

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26 Comments on "Nelson: I need to get to grips with defending"

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Good lad!


Seems to be grounded and focussed. The best thing is few years down the line, he can play as the right winger in the 4 man defence formation and as one of the two players behind the striker in the 3 man defence formation. Excited to see ho well the likes of Nelson, Nketiah and Willock flourish in the next couple of seasons


Mbappe was never played as a wing back to “get grips with the defensive side of the game”. Even Mou doesn’t do that with the young players he has…he just insists they drop back or he tosses them aside.
Great thing is Reiss is such a humble lad and sounds intelligent. Wenger needs to play him upfront. Take a risk, throw him at the deep end once in a while. This method will not work with every young player.

Winterburn Wanderers

Didn’t Bergkamp play a season at left back at Ajax?

Mein Bergkampf

Totally with you Trez. Wenger is the only manager who does this, playing young players out of position for years on end as part of ‘development’. It takes away a players positional identity and you get left with someone like the Ox, or Walcott, Wilshere and Rambo to an extent, that don’t really know what positions they are specialists in. He can work on his defensive game once he’s got a season or two under his belt. It shouldn’t be the first thing he learns.

Heavenly Chapecoense

Totally agree with you and Trez. We even got Eboué as right winger for a so-called defensive balance in attack. Who did our main rival Man U had as a right winger at the time ? Christiano Ronaldo.


agreed…i am pretty sure if it wasn’t for walcott,he would have being starting in the front 3….walcott needs to move now.


Don’t know why people are pissed, this is standard thing for the youths in football, Ramsey, Bale started at left back. Pretty sure 99% of kids dream about being a star striker, not everyone gonna play up front.


Bale was not a winger being played at LB.
He was a LB in his early years who was later switched to a wing position to better capitalize on his offensive skills. It was never meant as a means of “development”.
Lets not start some revisionist history just to defend the manager


Sorry, I love what I’ve seen from Nelson but he ins’t as good as Mbappe. Not even close. Maybe in the long run he will become better who knows? Right now comparing the 2 players I think Mpabbe was getting noticed by other clubs as a 17 I think?

Unfortunately we play in a 343 formation. I’m sure AW would be playing him in a Winger or AM position if we were in the 4231. As it stands now he isn’t as good as the front 3 that we use for these competitions. Thats also not using Iwobi.

I don’t think its AW not wanting to take a risk. Its Nelson being technically good enough to play the position and giving him important minutes on the pitch. I don’t know whats better him playing 90m at wingback or 15m in the front 3?


Totally agree with this.
Players do change positions over the course of their careers but its rare to do this for the sake of development.
If Nelson’s future is closer to the box then its unlikely he will learn a lot playing in the defense. He does stand to lose some of the close control and incisive passing ability that is much needed closer to goal.
To be honest, it would make much more sense of the manager just says that he plays him at RWB because he does not have other options and he wants to give Nelson game time. The development things just does not make sense.


Good luck doing that in this Arsenal team.


Literally, why should he? Play him in the front 3 in his natural position and let him develop… naturally. I don’t remember Fabregas playing CB, or Bergkamp playing LB


I agree, I fear him learning the defensive side of the game at our club. Good luck Reisses Pieces

Winterburn Wanderers

Pretty sure Bergkamp played LB if you read his book. Coach saw his talent and wanted to make him have the work harder.


I’m too young to remember his Ajax days, but not old enough to stop getting goosebumps thinking of his days in red. I just feel like Reiss needs time in his actual position, specialising in it, learning to attack and defend in a first team front 3, rather than being another Mr. Versatile. I say this without taking away from his good intentions and desire.

Mate Kiddleton

Bergkamp was played in every position but goalie at youth level, at Ajax. It was to develop him as a total footballer.

Mein Bergkampf

Who was it that let him swim in Getafix’s potion for a week or two?


I guess that’s the same Mesut Ozil that Martin Keown, the one who’s big mates with Steve Bould and in the know, said had to be kept away from young players because he’d downed tools and had such a toxic attitude. Some of our ex players will come up with anything to keep their shabby punditry jobs and Keown has turned into the worst. It’s sad that so many people believe the lies.


I agree about the ex players causing trouble as pundits. I’d disagree about Keown being the worst. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I don’t doubt that it comes from the heart – he’s Arsenal through and through

Brown American Gooner
Brown American Gooner

I would prefer to see him in the front 3 in place of Walcott. I’m sure we have other young players who can play in the RWB role(Tafari Moore maybe)


As much as I would love to see him in the front 3, Walcott at this stage in their careers is much better. Now I don’t think Nelson is far off because I don’t think Walcott is that good but it looks like AW really wants to win the cup. Thats why he keeps playing Walcott in the front 3.


I know many including Blogs himself think that Reiss should be playing further up the pitch, but I’ve got no problem with him developing his defensive side in these Cup outings. Perhaps Arsene is learning from past speed merchants like Theo and the Ox that he should have developed their defensive side first as well. Ox was terrible in his own zone and if Theo was a good 2way player, surely it would be easier to fit him into our Prem side.
The kid is only 17. Wenger is doing right by him.


Very well said. Moreover, I don’t think Nelson will have any hesitation getting forward into the attack tonight.


Fully agreed with the above two comments. What Reiss needs now is competitive game time and he is getting ‘em so let us just soak it in.


Are you seriously saying that what stopped Theo and Ox from fulfilling their potential was their weak defensive game?
Are these two repeatedly criticized for their poor decision making in the final third, lack of incision, poor control at times and inability to keep up with a quick passing game?
Exactly how is any of it a part of their defensive game?