15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri received the opportunity to join first team training on Saturday and he must have impressed because he was not only named on the bench for the game against Brentford but also got minutes in the match.

Ethan Nwaneri playing for the England u16s at the Montaigu Tournament (Photo via Mondial Football Montaigu on Facebook)
Ethan Nwaneri playing for the England u16s at the Montaigu Tournament (Photo via Mondial Football Montaigu on Facebook)

When the Arsenal u18s named their squad on Saturday, it looked like Ethan Nwaneri had been held back for the u21s once again.

Despite being young enough to play u16 football, and the expectation he’d mostly act as an u18 starter this season, Nwaneri has already made multiple appearances for the u21s, including a league start.

Yet, when the u21 lineup was named later in the day, Nwaneri was again absent.

It turned out the England u17 attacking midfielder had been called up for first-team training instead.

Ethan Nwaneri with the England u16s (Photo via Nwaneri on Instagram)
Ethan Nwaneri with the England u16s (Photo via Nwaneri on Instagram)

Nwaneri is far from the first Arsenal youngster to be called up for a training session with the senior side. Even in Saturday’s session, he was joined by Lino Sousa, Reuell Walters, Matt Smith, and Elian Quesada-Thorn.

But, it’s relatively rare for a 15-year-old to get that opportunity, particularly at the expense of playing them in a game that day.

When he was named on the bench Arsenal for their Premier League game against Brentford, nobody expected him to come on at any point but, sure enough, in injury time, he was brought on to replace Fabio Vieira.

He is now Arsenal’s youngest ever player, aged 15 years and 181 days.

With four goals and assists in four league games between the u18s and the u21s this campaign, Nwaneri has made a strong start regardless of the level he’s featured at.

Mikel Arteta had the chance to get a first-hand look at what the young technically gifted midfielder can do, and we’ll see if it leads to further call-ups in the future.

Speaking about Nwaneri after the game, Arteta said, “It was a pure gut feeling. I met the boy. I really liked what I saw.

“Per in the academy was giving me good feelings. He’s trained with us a couple of times and then I had the feeling from yesterday that if the opportunity could come I was going to do it.”

Arsenal won the game comfortably with goals from William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus and a beauty from Fabio Vieira making his full league debut for the club.

For the record, Nwaneri is ineligible for the Europa League this season due to UEFA restrictions.

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