Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest player in Premier League history as of Sunday. The teenager featured for the Gunners in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Brentford. At the age of 15 years and 111 days, he was not only the youngest kicker in the history of the Gunners, there was also no younger player in England’s top division.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta brought on Nwaneri for Fabio Vieira in the closing stages. The youngster dethroned Harvey Elliott with his effort. This had previously been the youngest player in the Premier League.
Nwaneri’s debut in the Premier League is the high point of a rapid rise in recent weeks. At the start of the season, the technically gifted attacker played for the under-18s at Arsenal’s youth academy, which is run by Per Mertesacker. He made his debut in their dress in May. With strong performances, he then made people sit up and take notice during the preparation for the current season.
Among other things, he delivered in the friendly against Slough Town in such a way that Rebels coach Neil Baker then enthused: “This boy with the ’10’ has gold in his foot. That’s a real talent.” According to Baker, Nwaneri is a “great hope for Arsenal’s future”.
Ethan Nwaneri wowed Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
Apparently it felt the same way in north London and after Nwaneri had played for the Under-21s he was given a taste of professional training by team manager Mikel Arteta. This was followed by the nomination for the squad for the Brentford game and said historic substitution.
Curious: according to a report by Times the 15-year-old had to change in a separate changing room away from the Arsenal side to comply with English youth protection rules.
England legend Gary Lineker tweeted about the age of the new Arsenal hopeful: “Luckily it’s an early kick-off so he can do his homework after the game.” In fact, Nwaneri is currently still attending St. John’s Senior School in Enfield, north of the English capital.
Per Mertesacker recommended Ethan Nwaneri
Nwaneri is already known beyond London at junior level. He is an England Under-17 international and previously made six appearances for the Under-16s in which he scored a goal. In addition to English, he also has Nigerian citizenship.
Not only is Nwaneri’s enormous dribbling strength outstanding, but also his versatility: he can be deployed in attacking midfield and on both wing positions. It can also be used a little further back in the headquarters.
Despite the good prospects for the future, Nwaneri’s first division appearance on Sunday came as a bit of a surprise. He was favored among other things by the personnel worries in Arteta’s squad. The Spaniard then praised his young charge: “It was just a gut feeling. I looked at the boy and I liked what I saw.”
Arteta also said pragmatically about Nwaneri: “Per Mertesacker and the people in the academy give me good information. Nwaneri has trained with us a few times. We needed players because we have injuries, especially after Martin’s absence (Ødegaard, note . ed.).”
His trainer had no qualms about throwing the youngster in at the deep end: “I had a feeling that I would do it if the opportunity arose.”
The hustle and bustle surrounding his first Premier League game initially left Nwaneri superficially cold. All he shared on Instagram with his 123,000 followers was a matchday photo of himself arm in arm with Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. He commented with a simple “Thank you”. And a picture with his shirt and the unusual shirt number 83 he only provided with a red heart emoji.
Arsenal FC: The youngest players in history – Ethan Nwaneri at the top
- Ethan Nwaneri (15 years, 5 months, 23 days)
- Cesc Fabregas (16 years, 5 months, 24 days)
- Jack Wilshere (16 years, 8 months, 12 days)
- Jermaine Pennant (16 years, 10 months, 15 days)
- Paul Vaessen (16 years, 11 months, 11 days)