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Q&A: Who is Ethan Nwaneri? A closer look at Premier League’s youngest footballer

Brentford v Arsenal – Premier League – Gtech Community Stadium
(Image credit: John Walton)

Ethan Nwaneri became the first 15-year-old to play in the Premier League on Sunday when he came off the bench during Arsenal’s 3-0 win at Brentford.

Here, the PA news agency looks at why the midfielder’s appearance was such a big deal and what the future has in store for him.

Who is Ethan Nwaneri?

Ethan Nwaneri comes on to make Premier League history

Ethan Nwaneri comes on to make Premier League history (John Walton/PA)

The midfielder plays for Arsenal on schoolboy terms – players cannot sign a professional deal at his age – and England Under-16s.

He joined the club’s academy when he was in primary school and has made rapid progress through the youth ranks, breaking into the under-18s as a 14-year-old – and scoring on his first appearance – and earlier this month making his debut for the under-21s against Blackburn.

Why was his appearance so significant?

He became the youngest player to make a Premier League appearance at the age of 15 years and 181 days. He is the first under-16 to feature in the competition and the youngest to play for Arsenal’s first team. Due to his age, he is unable to even get changed in the same room as the rest of the Arsenal team.

Who was the previous record-holder?

Harvey Elliott (right) was the previous record-holder after playing for Fulham against Wolves

Harvey Elliott (right) was the previous record-holder after playing for Fulham against Wolves (Nick Potts/PA)

Liverpool midfielder Harvey Elliott, who made his Premier League debut in 2019 for Fulham aged 16 years, 30 days. He broke the record set by Matthew Briggs back in 2007 when he made his debut – again for Fulham.

Playing at such a young age must be a good sign for his future?

Not necessarily. Briggs is currently playing non-league football at the age of 31, having spent much of his career playing in the EFL’s lower leagues.

Nwaneri is the 22nd player to appear in the Premier League before the age of 17. Out of the previous 21, only Wayne Rooney, James Milner, Aaron Lennon, Francis Jeffers and Jack Rodwell have made over 100 appearances in the competition.

How has he appeared so early?

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said he had “a pure gut feeling” after allowing the player to train with the first team.

Arteta also hopes the example will inspire more of Arsenal’s academy players.

“It sends a strong message about who we are as a club,” the Spaniard added. “I told him yesterday he would be with us and he had to be ready. He is ready.”

What’s next for him?

School! He will get a day’s rest on Monday due to the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral, but he will be expected to be back at St John’s Prep and Senior School in Enfield on Tuesday.

Football-wise he will likely return to the under-21 squad, but will hope for further first-team appearances after the international break.

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