Mikel Arteta praises ‘important’ Reiss Nelson for forcing way into selection plans
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta admitted Reiss Nelson proved his worth to the Premier League title cause as the winger hailed his last-gasp winner over Bournemouth as a “great moment”.
The Gunners had slipped two goals behind against the Cherries before battling back to secure a thrilling 3-2 victory which keeps them five points clear at the top of the table.
It is the first time in over a decade that the Gunners have fought from two goals down to win a league game as Thomas Partey and Ben White drew them level before Nelson’s late heroics.
Bournemouth had led through Philip Billing, who scored the second-fastest goal in Premier League history as he turned home with just 9.11 seconds on the clock.
Marcos Senesi doubled the advantage after the break but Arsenal showed a never-say-die attitude to take all three points.
“It’s been a rough couple of months for me, just coming back from injury and when that goal went in it was a great moment for me,” Nelson told Sky Sports News.
“I have been here all my life, it means a lot to me. It was a great strike. I’m delighted with the goal and hope it is the first of many.”
Nelson, 23, is out of contract this summer and was introduced off the bench for his first appearance since November 12, having also been sidelined with a thigh injury.
He set up White’s equaliser before scoring a fine winner with the last meaningful kick of the contest as Arteta revealed he now has a selection headache moving forward.
“I always saw the potential,” he said of Nelson.
“The talent and the desire for him to do it, but he’s at a different level right now. I think emotionally, the experiences that he had helped him.
“Football-wise, it was my decision in the last two games not to play him because we had other options.
“But he was knocking on the door, he’s been training really good and it’s a good lesson for me and for the coaches that we need him and that he can be really important for the team.
“Everybody is overwhelmed. It was madness from the first seconds with that routine and we defended so poorly.
“Then we had to climb a mountain against 10 men behind the ball. We tried in every single way, we didn’t score and suddenly we are 2-0 down from a set play.”
Bournemouth had silenced the home crowd as they opened the scoring without Arsenal touching the ball after they treated kick-off like a set-piece routine.
“The kick-off routine, you don’t expect to score from that but you hope to catch them out and we did,” said boss Gary O’Neil.
“Most teams that come here get despatched fairly easily. We didn’t, we came here and put up a good fight.
“I shook hands with Mikel, it was a game he needed to win and I needed something from. We went to battle and he came out on top. If they score a goal they can celebrate how they want.”