In London It is Saturday, March 21, 2007. The US box office for “300” is booming. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, recently introduced the first iPhone. Recently, LCD Soundsystem released the outstanding “Sound of Silver.” And Ethan has recently joined the Nwaneri family.
He has surpassed Harvey Elliott of Fulham, who made his top-flight debut at the age of 16 years and 30 days in May 2019, to become the Premier League’s youngest player ever, 15 years and 181 days later. Mikel Arteta, the head coach of Arsenal, is now hoping that Nwaneri would keep the door open for further academy graduates to follow in the footsteps of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, who both attended Hale End.
It should come as no surprise that he broke the record held by club star Cesc Fabregas for being the youngest player to play for Arsenal. Nwaneri also made history as the Gunners’ first player to make a debut who was born after the team moved into the Emirates Stadium.
His substitution for Fabio Vieira in the 89th minute was the icing on the cake for Arsenal and their traveling fans, who praised their rookie with chants of “he’s got school in the morning” and “how awful must you be, he’s just 15,” directed at a dismal Brentford team. Nwaneri was indeed too young to change before today’s game with the rest of the Arsenal players.
Arteta attributed his decision to work with Nwaneri to a “pure gut sensation.” “I had the boy. What I noticed was absolutely nice. The academy personnel and Per [Mertesacker, head of Arsenal’s academy] provided me with a lot of useful information about him as well. He and I have trained together on a few occasions. He had to arrive yesterday because to the injuries we had, particularly to Martin [Odegaard]. I had a hunch from yesterday that if the chance arose, I would take it, so I did.
“It’s an additional step and experience. All of your career’s steps won’t be forward-moving. In addition, I believe it sends a pretty powerful message about who we are as a club. Perhaps he needs to go three backwards before going another one forward after that.”
There is a long history of talented young people making their breakthroughs at Arsenal when they are ready. Arsene Wenger, who was more than willing to construct his club around prodigious talent, threw Fabregas, who established the record barely weeks after signing from Barcelona as a 16-year-old, and Jack Wilshere into the deep end at an early age.
That plan has been carried out by Arteta. Nwaneri may have been born while Vieira was well into his school years, but at only 22, he still has the greatest years ahead of him. It was impressive when he celebrated his maiden Premier League start with a bending shot from outside the box. Gabriel Martinelli, a Brazilian international at age 21, and Saka, who just turned 21 earlier this month, were with him in the Arsenal attack.
The value of the production line that connects Hale End and the Emirates Stadium is well known to Arteta. “I make all of the decisions that we make for the sake of the club. It’s not for the player or for me. We think he has a skill that needs to be nurtured over the course of the next two to three years; we’ll see how we handle that. That will be decided by the boy. It’s not usually us. The players often inform you of their capabilities and demand that you allow them to demonstrate them.”
Although Nwaneri has long been considered one of Hale End’s best and brightest young players, Arteta was forced to promote him to the first team after injuries to Odegaard, Smith Rowe, and Reiss Nelson, the former of whom withdrew immediately before Sunday’s 3-0 victory due to a calf injury.
When his little son was called up to the first team squad on Saturday night, it may come as no surprise that Arteta was reluctant to overwhelm him with knowledge.
“It’s best not to tell them anything these days! Simply place him there and observe what happens “said he.
“I informed him yesterday that he would be joining us and that he needed to prepare because I wanted him to experience being with us, being at the hotel, watching the game’s preparations, and being around the boys. You must be prepared if you are sitting on that bench. I congratulated him and urged to enjoy it [when he came on].”
It was undoubtedly a special event for Nwaneri because of the time. Prior to his entrance, Mikel Arteta’s team had already returned to the top of the Premier League standings, where they are ahead of Manchester City and Tottenham by one point thanks to goals from William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus, and Vieira.