When Reiss Nelson returned from his loan spell with Hoffenheim last summer there were high hopes he’d take the Arsenal first team by storm.
It’s not really worked out that way.
Given minutes early in the season by Unai Emery, he struggled to assert himself on matches and eventually found himself behind Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka in the pecking order.
Things picked up again for the winger when Mikel Arteta became head coach only for a hamstring injury and the lockdown to nip his momentum in the bud again.
Having played with so much freedom during his Academy days, Nelson has often looked like he’s playing with the handbrake on at first team level. He admits it’s been a frustrating season so far but he’s regaining confidence under Arteta.
Speaking to BT Sport ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final, he said: “For me it’s been a bit more tricky because I went out on loan and came back and it was hard because we were changing managers I had to wait for my opportunity.
“Then I got injured, I played again then I got injured so it’s been hard for me. But now with Mikel as a boss he’s given a lot of confidence.
“For me I’ve got to keep going and keep being patient and nail down my first-team spot.
He added: “It’s just about getting the right mindset and mentality to go out and give 100 percent for the badge and if you make a mistake don’t doubt yourself in the next situation which I feel like I’ve done before – just to carry on playing the game I play.
Bagging the winner in the 2-1 win over Liverpool this week – his first goal in the Premier League – should certainly help his morale.
“As a kid you want to score your first goal and I’m delighted to get it against the champions and we got the three points too so it ticked all the boxes,” he reflected.
“When I got home my family were buzzing my brother said he couldn’t sleep till 4am. Everyone has been on a buzz and my phone won’t stop buzzing.”
That Nelson is coming through the ranks with other players from the Academy is something that he cherishes. There’s a strong bond between the group who’ve been pushing each other in training for years.
“Joe’s my brother,” he said.”I have a lot of love for Joe, we’ve been together since under-8s and we started our journey together and now we’re playing for a great club together you couldn’t have asked for anything more it’s a great feeling.
“We have to push each other on. Sometimes you go into some dressing rooms where there’s a divide with the French players, the Spanish players, the old, the young, but at Arsenal it’s not like that because me, Bukayo, Eddie, Joe have come through the system together.
“I remember watching Bukayo when he was coming through under-13s it’s something that we’ve always wanted to do to keep each other grounded playing with each other and keep growing together.”
Given our financial situation, the club knows full well that having a talented group of young players coming through the ranks is a real bonus. Having worked so hard to develop them, it sounds like Arteta and those around him will do everything they can to give them the minutes to deliver on their potential.
Speaking in his pre-Wembley press conference, the Spaniard said: “It’s really important because this is part of our DNA. We can produce at home and we know that with the facilities and structures that we have in place, we have players of that calibre and that level.
“There are some things you cannot compare with anyone from the outside because their feelings and their relationships within the club and how much they care, their passion they put in for our team is different and that’s a mixture you don’t get from anyone else.
He added: “We want to give them as many opportunities as possible, again with the right environment and the right structure around them, but then it depends on them.
“This is not about doing it for one month, three months or eight months, it’s about doing it for a long time, and you know that the demands of this football club and the level that you have to be to be there, you have to be really consistent and that’s the hardest thing to do.”