Ethan Nwaneri: Inside the rise of the Arsenal teenager, 15, who became the youngest ever Premier League player

It’s been a whirlwind few days for 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri. But Arsenal’s record-breaking debutant is used to that.

Rewind to February 2020 and the teenager is taking part in in assault for Arsenal’s Under-14s away at West Ham. Storm Ciara had hit the UK all week and the youth crew gamers on the pitch have been put in unchartered territory – however a 12-year-old Nwaneri wouldn’t be thrown about.

  • Nwaneri turns into PL’s youngest ever player
  • Brentford 0-3 Arsenal – report and highlights

“He was from the Under 13s, playing in the age group above – even then he was one of the better players in that group,” a Premier League scout who was watching that recreation tells Sky Sports.

“The conditions were terrible – it was really windy and rainy and it’s normally difficult to assess these players in that environment. But I picked out bits like his body language, his character and the way he reacted to the conditions.

“He scored in that recreation and has a watch for aim, however he actually wished to be concerned in the build-up play and had good ball management.”

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Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest player to play in the Premier League, beating the earlier document set by Fulham’s Harvey Elliott

Now Nwaneri is the most talked about teenager in English soccer – after his temporary cameo for Arsenal of their 3-0 win over Brentford on Super Sunday made him the youngest ever Premier League player at 15 years and 181 days.

The midfielder spent three minutes on the west London pitch, and did not contact the ball, however the expertise of senior soccer was there for a player who was born after the Emirates Stadium was constructed – and was 12-years-old when the UK went into the first coronavirus lockdown.

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Playing in an older age group has been the means of the world for the attacking midfielder up to now. Those aware of his rise up the youth soccer have seen him taking part in above his age group since Under-13 degree.

“When I saw him, he was different gravy,” the identical scout provides. “I first spotted him when I was working at other Premier League clubs when he was playing for Arsenal’s Under-13s as an 11-year-old.

“But it was a number of years later – once I was watching him as a Manchester United scout – that he had developed into what we name a Grade A academy player.

Nwaneri has been taking part in above his age group for a number of years

“I would have marked him as a signing at United if it was down to me but trying to get a player from Category One academy team to another one is difficult.

“Even when he was round 12 or 13 years outdated, you would see that he was the decide of the bunch, the finest player on the pitch – even for the yr group above. Every time he acquired on the ball, he seemed to make issues occur. He at all times posed a risk, took set items and put in good deliveries with them.”

The coaches at Arsenal have continued to play him above his age group, however his rise over the previous 12 months has been nothing quick of dramatic. Last season, he was an everyday for Arsenal’s U16s aged 14 however solely made his first begin for the U18s in February of this yr.

The teenager made a direct affect, scoring two assists in a 4-2 win over Reading U18s as his inventory at Arsenal grew even additional.

15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri (left) turns into the youngest player to ever seem in the Premier League

“He’s someone very highly thought of here as there are other boys at Hale End as well,” mentioned Under-18 coach Dan Micciche after that recreation.

“I trusted him to perform today and he got two assists. Knowing him, he will leave here disappointed that he has not scored a goal or he’s misplaced a few passes because he’s got that champion mentality.”

The phrase “champion mentality” typically pops up when an Arsenal youth product comes by means of the ranks into the first-team. The identical time period was given to Bukayo Saka by one Arsenal scout when the winger was in the Gunners’ Under-9s crew.

And one wonders whether or not it was that mentality that influenced Mikel Arteta’s “gut feeling”, earlier than the Arsenal first-team supervisor acquired Nwaneri concerned in opposition to Brentford, a number of weeks after the player performed Under-21 soccer for the first time.

“The first time I met him, I looked into his eyes and I had that feeling. I really liked what I saw,” mentioned Arteta after he gave Nwaneri his debut.

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Arsenal supervisor Mikel Arteta reacts following his aspect’s 3-0 win at Brentford

“[Academy manager] Per Mertesacker and the academy staff are giving me really good information, [sporting director] Edu as well.”

The Arsenal first-team are noticing one thing particular too – none extra so than midfielder Granit Xhaka, who has coached Nwaneri’s Under-16s crew not too long ago as the Gunners vice-captain works in direction of his teaching badges.

“He looks old when I see him but the club can be proud of a player like him,” mentioned Xhaka after Arsenal’s win at Brentford.

“You can see a giant distinction with him and the different guys. He could be very, very particular.

Granit Xhaka (proper) coached Nwaneri in Arsenal's U16s as half of his teaching schooling

“Of course you have to protect him as he is very young but if he keeps going like this with his hard work he has a big, big future.”

So, what now for Nwaneri? The historical past books present that the path ahead for the Premier League’s youngest ever gamers are unclear.

The Arsenal teenager has taken over the document from Harvey Elliott, who is now an everyday starter at Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Aaron Lennon is now the fourth-youngest player in Premier League historical past and has spent practically 20 years as a Premier League player.

But then there are the one-hit wonders like Matthew Briggs, Jose Baxter and Izzy Brown – who both retired from the recreation early or are caught in non-league with out making any Premier League affect. Which class Nwaneri falls into shall be decided in the subsequent few years.

Liverpool's Harvey Elliott was the Premier League's youngest ever player earlier than Nwaneri

There’s worldwide recognition up for grabs too. “He’s definitely on our radar,” England Under-21 supervisor Lee Carsley tells Sky Sports. “He’s a real talent and it’s a fantastic achievement.

“When they get an opportunity in the first-team, it is totally different. It’s not a sink or swim state of affairs however we have seen gamers who wrestle to make that transition from academy soccer into the seniors. They all want time and that have so it is nice that Mikel did that.”

Meanwhile, Arteta adds: “It’s only one step and all the steps in your profession usually are not ahead and it’s important to know that. You can go ahead then backwards after which forwards. That’s, sadly, this trade and the soccer profession of any player.

“All the decisions that we take, that I take, are for the club. It’s not for me, it’s not for the player. It’s because we believe he has a talent that has to be developed incredibly in the next few years and we’ll see how we manage that.”

“I’m sure they have a plan for him,” Arsenal academy product Folarin Balogun, at present on mortgage at Ligue 1 membership Stade de Reims, says to Sky Sports. “There’s been a lot of players in the past who have kicked on early, [such as] Reiss Nelson and Bukayo, who made his debut when he was 17. I’m sure if he keeps his head down, he will see through that plan.”

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England Under-21 worldwide Folarin Balogun, who is on mortgage at Reims from Arsenal, was happy to see Ethan Nwaneri grow to be the youngest Premier League player ever at simply 15 for the Gunners.

Given the current success of Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in coming by means of the Arsenal ranks, Nwaneri appears to be in the proper place at the proper time.

‘Arsenal and England have the new Fabregas’

Alexander Tardios – Ethan Nwaneri’s headteacher at St John’s School, Enfield – chatting with Sky Sports News:

“Ethan is a very humble boy. He’s been on the radar of clubs since he was nine years old so he’s used to the attention.

“But what’s finest about him is his dad and mom and the means they’ve introduced him up. They’re devoted to him, they assist him in each means doable. They give attention to his schooling as a result of they need him to have a security web and so they’ve stored him humble, which is one thing he’s going to want now he is been thrust in the public eye.

“They are constantly in the school checking if he’s falling behind. His father said that if Ethan didn’t pass his end of year exams, he wouldn’t let him play for Arsenal.

“His father instructed me one thing that has caught in my thoughts which is the triangle: Family, the soccer membership and schooling. If you’ve these three pillars, you’ve a humble boy. That’s what Ethan is.

“He is immaculately dressed [at school] – his shirt is crisp white, his tie is perfect, his blazer is perfect. If you look at Ethan’s face when he came on to the pitch [at Brentford]: Calm, collected and that’s what he’s about.

“The first time I noticed him was at the faculty academy trial day and we had a soccer pitch that was full of academy gamers from soccer golf equipment.

Arsenal's Ethan Nwaneri, 15, in motion vs Brentford

“You’re looking for that talent that might just about stand out, but when Ethan went out on the pitch, he was so head and shoulders above the other children, he was just passing them as if he wasn’t there – which is incredible as we’re talking about a football pitch full of academy players.

“We needed to take him off the pitch as a result of no different player might contact the ball and he acquired his full scholarship inside eight minutes. That’s how gifted he’s.

“I then texted someone with a lot of knowledge about football and said ‘Do you know someone called Ethan Nwaneri?’ and his simple text to me was: ‘yes, he’s spectacular’.

“He’s skilful, highly effective, quick and humble. Really, Arsenal have one thing particular. And I’ll go additional: England have one thing particular as he will get older.

“This young man has it. Whatever it is, he has it. When people have the pleasure of watching him play, people will get to see what we see every day. He just has it. I would make a comparison with Cesc Fabregas, I would definitely make a comparison with Jack Wilshere because he’s got that skill and that natural ability.”

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