Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has revealed the club looked to loan out Reiss Nelson during the summer but the forward insisted he wanted to stay and fight for his place.
The 20-year-old has played just 81 minutes of first-team football this season and did not make the bench for Sunday’s Premier League defeat at Leicester – despite Willian being out injured.
Nelson started three of the first four games of Arteta’s reign as Arsenal boss following his appointment last December.
He is likely to play some part in the Europa League Group B clash at home to Dundalk on Thursday as Arteta explained why the England Under-21s international has been used so sparingly of late.
“We ended up with a large squad at the end of the transfer market,” he said.
“We had a few plans in mind with Reiss. One of them was as well to send him on loan to get more minutes because of the competition we have upfront.
“The reality is he has been really good in training. He wants to stay here. He wants to fight for his place.”
Asked why the loan did not happen, Arteta replied: “It was mixed reasons, Reiss was really convinced that he wanted to fight to stay here.
“When you see that willingness and that passion and that security in a player you feel tempted to keep him even though you know that opportunities are going to be restricted and he is not going to have a lot of continuity in his play.
“But things change very quickly and if he starts playing and playing well and he does what he can do, why not? He could start to play more games.”
With a wealth of attacking options in the wide positions, Nelson is competing with the likes of Willian, club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and England international Bukayo Saka for a place in Arteta’s side.
“He is going to get the chances in the right moments,” added Arteta.
“What I am pleased with is how he has assimilated the situation – not playing a lot of minutes in the first few weeks.
“As everybody can see, things are changing very quickly. We are getting injuries. We will get more injuries because of the schedule that we have and he will get the opportunities.
“Then it will come down to him to take them or not.
“I tried to explain to him why he isn’t in the team. Obviously to compare things that happened eight or nine months ago is difficult, in a positive or negative way all the time.
“But I try to have a very open communication with the players and try to get the doubts out of their mind, and try to talk clearly when they play or don’t play the reasons behind that.”
While Nelson will be keen to be involved against Dundalk, defender David Luiz will definitely miss out due to a thigh injury suffered in the Leicester loss.
Willian is in contention having recovered from a slight ankle knock that sidelined him at the weekend, with Saka also available despite limping off against the Foxes.