“School in the morning. He has school in the morning.”
It was with this unusual chant that Arsenal fans celebrated coach Mikel Arteta’s decision to send attacking midfielder Ethan Nwaneri onto the field in the final minute of Sunday’s 3-0 win over Brentford, away from home.
But the music is nothing short of exaggerated. The day after his first match as a professional, the owner of the number 83 shirt of the London club really had to wake up early, put his backpack on his back and go to school.
It’s just that Nwaneri is still in his mid-teens. At the age of 15 years and 181 days, he became the youngest player in history to play in the Premier League, the top flight of the English Premier League, last weekend.
The record before fellow attacking midfielder Harvey Elliott, who debuted in the competition for Liverpool in 2019, when he was 16 years and 30 days old.
Arsenal’s new prodigy is so young that, by British law, he couldn’t even change with his adult teammates in the dressing room at the Gtech Community Stadium. He had to put his uniform in a separate room and from there he went straight to the field.
Born in 2007, Nwaneri hasn’t even gotten to see the team defending being English champions. The Gunners’ last Premier League title was won in 2004. Afterwards, their trophy room only receives awards from the FA Cup (2005, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2020) and the Community Shield (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2020) .
The teenager is originally from England and a descendant of a Nigerian immigrant family. He started to become well-known last season, when, even at the age of 14, he has already become one of the highlights of the club’s under-18 team. At the same time, he began to be called up to defend the under-17 national team.
In 2022/23, Nwaneri has been alternating between the under-18 and under-21 categories, where he finds opponents up to six years older. Before his debut in the adult team, he already had four games in the season, with one goal and three assists.
“I met the boy and I really liked what I saw. He trained with us a few times. Yesterday [sábado]I had that feeling that if I had the chance [de utilizá-lo], I would do it. He deserves it, he is doing very well and he is a great talent that we want to keep with us”, said Arteta, after his historic debut.
In several other relevant national championships on the international scene, the start of Nwanetti’s professional career would have to wait a few more months. In Germany, Borussia Dortmund had to wait for the phenomenon Youssofa Moukoko to turn 16 before using it for the first time. Palmeiras also had to wait for Endrick’s 16th birthday to be able to list him in Brazilian matches.
An early start in adult football is often an indication that the young player has above-average talent (Pelé and Sergio Agüero, for example, debuted at 15), but it is no guarantee of a successful career.
A well-known case is that of the American Freddy Adu. At the beginning of the century, he debuted in MLS (Major League Soccer) when he was 14 years old and came to be called the “new Pelé”. Currently 33 years old, he is unemployed and has a history of failure after failure (he played for 15 different teams, and none of them worked).
With six wins and one defeat in their first seven Premier League matches, Arsenal are the sensation of the English season. Arteta’s team leads the competition with 18 points, one more than Manchester City and Tottenham.
Due to the last FIFA Date before the 2022 World Cup, Londoners will now have a little time off. His next commitment is precisely a direct confrontation for the first place of the most popular national championship on the planet, against arch-rivals Tottenham, on October 1st, at Emirates Stadium.