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18th Sep 2022

Mikel Arteta explains why he gave Ethan Nwaneri his Arsenal debut aged 15

Callum Boyle

Nwaneri became the youngest player to play in the Premier League

Mikel Arteta said he went with his “gut feeling” after giving Ethan Nwaneri his senior debut at the age of 15 years and 181 days.

Nwaneri came off the bench for the final few minutes of Arsenal’s convincing 3-0 win away at Brentford on Sunday in a moment the youngster will never forget.

His teammates helped him to lap up the occasion as well, with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale ushering him over to the travelling away support to embrace the fans. Gabriel Martinelli also helped and allowed him to go and celebrate on his own.

Ethan Nwaneri

The youngster was given his chance after impressing while training with the first team on Saturday and has been in impressive form at academy level, scoring four goals and setting up five more in just 10 games.

He only made his under-18s debut aged 14 in May 2021 and also featured for the club’s under-21 side well in advance last month.

But despite the relative inexperience, Arsenal boss Arteta said he had seen enough to know that he was worth of a call-up to the senior squad.

“It was a pure gut feeling. When I met him, when I look at him, I had that feeling. I really liked what I saw,” Arteta explained.

“Per Mertesacker and the academy staff are giving me really good information, Edu as well. I met him, he’s trained a couple of times with us.

“Yesterday he had to come because we have injuries, especially the injury of Martin (Ødegaard), and then I had that feeling from yesterday that if the opportunity could come that I was going to do it and I just done it.”

Arteta added that he only told Nwaneri the night before Sunday’s victory that he would be travelling with the first team.

“I told him yesterday that he was going to be with us and that I want him to experience how it is to be in the hotel, to do a preparation of the game to be around the boys and that he had to be ready.”

“If you’re going to be on that bench you have to be ready. The boy just looks in your eyes and he’s ready. [When he was coming on I said] just congratulations and enjoy.”

Arsenal returned to winning ways with a dominant display. Goals from William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus and a stunning finish Fábio Vieira ensured that the Gunners would head into the international break top of the table.

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