© 2022 - USMAIL24.COM. All Rights Reserved.
Some players have ‘it’. Mikel Arteta found that Ethan Nwaneri has something special in their first interactions.
They left the Arsenal manager with ‘a gut feeling’ that the schoolboy would be poised to become the Premier League’s youngest player, aged just 15 years and 181 days, against Brentford on Sunday.
Others have seen it as Nwaneri has risen through the ranks of Arsenal. Some are so convinced by what they’ve seen that if Nwaneri (pronounced Wan-yeri) doesn’t make it to Arsenal, they’ll scratch their heads and question the game.
Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest Premier League player of all time last weekend
The 15-year-old was substituted for Bukayo Saka late in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Brentford
As far as anyone can tell – and while he is well aware of the potential pitfalls ahead and the development to come – Nwaneri is considered to be the best it can be.
At Arsenal, he is widely regarded as ‘the next’. For some even DE.
For youngsters making it through to Arsenal’s Hale End academy in recent years, Jack Wilshere was the homegrown reference with Cesc Fabregas, signed from Barcelona at the age of 16, another renowned graduate.
Mikel Arteta’s first conversations with the teen are sad because they gave him a gut feeling
Forget how his injury-ridden career faded into premature retirement, remember early Wilshere and the huge excitement he caused when he arrived in the first team.
So Nwaneri is talked about in the same terms as that announced pair and, according to some, having the potential to become one of Arsenal’s best academy products ever is as clear an indication as his prowess.
Nwaneri, who played under Wilshere for the Under 18s this season, came on as an attacking midfielder before his historic defeat to Brentford and has featured in several forward positions for Arsenal’s academy squads this season.
The teenager acted as an attacking midfielder for his historic outing against Brentford
But the one consistent and most important thing as he has progressed through their youth lineup is to get him on the ball wherever he is deployed. Do this enough and games will be affected and then won.
“He feels comfortable wherever you play him,” an Arsenal source said of Nwaneri, who also has a younger brother Emerson in the Gunners system. Ethan is described as a quick learner, a trait that is expected to help him adapt quickly to first-team football.
“He would be the best player if you played him as a right-back,” the source added. “Within ten minutes he would adapt and be the best player on the field. A complete, total footballer.’
Nwaneri was taken over by his teammates to recognize away game after game
He was part of a young bench for the first time on the day and made his debut late
Nwaneri has always had a knack for scoring, while his technique, intelligence and ability to see and perform things others cannot have also made him stand out among his peers.
Combine Fabregas and Wilshere’s teenage talent level with the ways and maturity beyond his age to command himself impressively in a mature and professional environment and it’s easy to see why Arsenal have such high expectations.
It was endearing to see Nwaneri’s reaction full-time at Brentford and how he had to be encouraged by teammates to go out to the Arsenal fans and receive his ovation after his historic cameo.
That matched descriptions of Nwaneri who didn’t yearn for the limelight. That will shine brighter after his debut, but he is said to have the solid support network around him to manage.
His focus is on his football and when he’s not training at Arsenal he will likely work on his craft in an individual session with his father Obi.
And if Arteta built his ideal player and person for his squad, Nwaneri would probably tick all the right boxes.
While Sunday’s jump was bigger than any so far, the fact that Nwaneri is speeding up is nothing new.
He is now part of England’s Under 17s group, having played for the Under 16s at the age of 14.
Having joined Arsenal at the age of nine and being able to choose from clubs, as he does now, Nwaneri has typically played in an older age group for the club since he was a teenager.
Arteta gave some final words of encouragement before introducing Nwaneri to the game
He has only tended to show up at his actual age when coming back from injury or when his quality was needed to win a match against one of their rival leading academies.
Granit Xhaka is one of the veteran stars Nwaneri takes under his wing. Xhaka said: ‘I am working on my coaching license and have been training the under-16s. You see a big difference with him and the other guys. He is very, very special.
“He looks old when I see him, but the club can be proud of a player like him. I spoke to a Brentford man and told him this man was 15. He looked at me and said, “F*** me, we look old!”.
“But we enjoy him, he enjoys us because he has the quality. You have to protect him because he is still very young, but if he continues with his hard work, he has a great, great future.”