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Reiss Nelson is walking a path that Theo Walcott refused to take 10 years ago

Arsenal's latest prospect will spend the season on loan with Hoffenheim

It’s a case of ‘if only’ for Theo Walcott.

Reiss Nelson is the latest star to emerge from the Arsenal production line.

The 18-year-old has followed the trend of young English talent moving to the Bundesliga, joining Hoffenheim on a season-long loan to kick-start his career.

The move is a bold one from Nelson and as such should be praised.

Yes, the stars might have aligned and injuries and suspensions could have handed him a regular spot in Unai Emery’s side, but why rest on your laurels?

The winger has an opportunity to play first team football in one of Europe’s best leagues. It’s a gamble, but it’s one well worth taking.

A Bundesliga voyage worked wonders for Ademola Lookman

Getty - Contributor
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A Bundesliga voyage worked wonders for Ademola Lookman

In some far-off parallel universe, Theo Walcott is currently being heralded as a legend at the Emirates.

The 29-year-old is immortalised in bronze outside the stadium and Gunners fans don’t dare question him taking Thierry Henry’s No14.

In reality, it’s a stark contrast.

Not a career move we all thought he would be making 12-years ago

PA:Press Association
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Not a career move we all thought he would be making 12-years ago

It’s widely acknowledged that Walcott’s development stunted at Arsenal.

A lack of opportunities, ill-thought out coaching towards his best position and injuries all played their part in his gradual demise.

Once thought of as the long-term successor to Henry, Walcott failed to achieve his undoubted potential, potential that could have seen him become a world-beater.

We all thought this moment was the start of something special

AFP
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We all thought this moment was the start of something special

The Ā£16million signing flattered to deceive in his first two seasons in north London.

Sparks of brilliance were countered with runs of inconsistency, nothing too unusual for a young player.

For Walcott however, those inconsistencies never left him.

High hopes

PA:Press Association
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High hopes

AfterĀ ArseneĀ Wenger declared in 2008 that Walcott was “not yet at the level we expect of him,” rumours of a loan move for the youngster were rife.

His former club Southampton were just one of many who were willing to take the struggling starlet and give him what he so desperately craved, first team opportunities.

All advances for his services were subsequently rejected by the Gunners.

Walcott decided that staying with Arsenal was the best thing for his progression, insisting that his game would ‘benefit from training with some of the best in the world.’

Training becomes worthless without match experience to go with it

Times Newspapers Ltd
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Training becomes worthless without match experience to go with it

The same interview revealed how disagreements over his favoured position were occurring just a matter of months into his Gunners career.

The youngster declared that he was finding it “frustrating” to not be playing up front. A narrative that would run for years.

With his career at a loggerheads early into his Arsenal spell, the solution to his woes were obvious to everyone, but himself and Wenger.

Walcott instead became a prolific bench warmer

AP:Associated Press
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Walcott instead became a prolific bench warmer

As loans to foreign leagues weren’t nearly as fashionable ten-years ago, a domestic move would have still been just as beneficial to Walcott.

You only have to look at the likes of Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard, two players who spent time away from their parents clubs in search of first team chances.

Both now have the world at their feet.

National treasures

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National treasures

By no means can Walcott be remembered as a total flop in north London. He departed north London with a respectable 108 goals in 399 games.

It just could have been so much more for Walcott, that’s the eternal frustration for Arsenal fans and neutrals alike.

All those wasted years.

I’m not crying, you’re crying

EPA
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I’m not crying, you’re crying

The career trajectory of Walcott makes Nelson’s decision all the more admirable.

Eager to get first-team minutes under his belt as soon as possible, nobody can fault the 18-year-old’s tempered confidence.

Arsenal fans have reacted well to the news and will no doubt be tracking the performances of Nelson this season.

He recognised his first team opportunities would be limited under Emery

Getty - Contributor
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He recognised his first team opportunities would be limited under Emery

It was Walcott’s delusions of granduare that ended up being his downfall.

Believing that he could dislodge the wealth of talent that the Gunners possessed at the time was never a realistic aim.

His confidence was misplaced and in the end proved fatal.

A boy in a team full of men

AFP
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A boy in a team full of men

Nelson will hope to buck the trend of wasted potential at Arsenal.


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