Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has backed Reiss Nelson to follow in Raheem Sterling’s footsteps to become a key player at the Emirates Stadium.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed his longest spell in the Arsenal first-team this season under Arteta, having spent last season on loan at Hoffenheim before falling in and out of the side under former boss Unai Emery.
Arteta has already overseen the rise of Sterling alongside Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, and the new Arsenal boss is confident that Nelson has the “attitude and desire” to emulate the England international’s meteoric rise in north London.
“I know Reiss because I coached him when he was 16 and straightaway he caught my eye,” Arteta said, quoted by the Express. “But because he was that good when he was young that everything was too easy for him.
“Then to make the step from a high level it is a big step and if you haven’t exposed yourself down here, to do it the next day up there doesn’t happen. You have a lot of habits and those habits have to be taken away and replaced with new ones.
“He is a boy that is willing to learn and loves the game but I think he has been a little bit confused in the last few years – what direction he had to take, some of the decisions that he made.
“He needs guidance, he needs a little bit of a stick, and he’s up for it now. But I was expecting a little more from his side. He needs to take responsibility as well.
“If he wants to play for this club every three days when you have to step in there you have to be almost perfect. At the moment I see this kind of attitude and desire.
“He has done that very quickly, much quicker than I thought and that is why he has been playing. I put him out to play and I trust him because he wants it and I think he can deliver.”
Nelson has already been repaying Arteta’s faith in him thanks to a match-winning goal – just his second in Arsenal colours – against Leeds United in the FA Cup.
He’s featured in Arsenal’s last six games across all competitions and the England Under-21 international is expected to be given even more game time over the next few weeks to help cover Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence.