Arsenal wonderkid Reiss Nelson should be the benchmark for young Gunners on loan, says Per Mertesacker
Arsenal academy chief Per Mertesacker is eager to build on Reiss Nelson’s success at Hoffenheim and further exploit the loan market to develop the Gunners’ young stars.
Nelson has enjoyed a remarkable rise to prominence in the Bundesliga, scoring six goals in 10 league appearances at a rate of one every 64 minutes.
The 19-year-old signed a new contract at Arsenal in the summer – rejecting interest from Real Madrid and Monaco – before moving to Hoffenheim for the promise of regular first-team football he could not be guaranteed under Unai Emery.
Mertesacker, who took over running of the Hale End set up at the start of the season, is expected to make further youngsters available for loan in the January transfer window, with Joe Willock among those believed to be under consideration for a loan exit.
“The loan system should work brilliantly for us,” Mertesacker said in the Arsenal matchday programme ahead of Thursday’s clash with Qarabag. “Some Bundesliga clubs are very interesting for us and the way he could make an impact at Hoffenheim was by starting on the bench but then scoring immediately.
“Through scoring those goals, he gained trust from the coach, from the fans, by learning some German and earning the right to start and make an impact.
“I think he has done a brilliant job but that all fell into place because he wanted to go. He had a great opportunity but you need to take these opportunities and make sure you learn from those moments. Instead of being a first-team player between the under-23s and the first team, this is something different.
“It’s difficult to manage and I’m really pleased and glad that it’s worked right now for him. We have other prospects we really need to think about. What’s their best path towards making an impact for our first team? There are different ways, different challenges.”
Meanwhile Mertesacker is likely to see a host of his young charges feature for Emery’s first-team in Thursday’s Europa League dead rubber against Qarabag. Arsenal are guaranteed top spot in Group E ahead of Portuguese side Sporting.
In a 3-0 win away to Vorskla Poltava Emery gave debuts to Zech Medley, Charlie Gilmour and Bukayo Saka, the latter considered among the best young prospects in Mertesacker’s academy, and those three are expected to join the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock in the squad to face Qarabag on Thursday.