Granit Xhaka
Granit Xhaka

Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka was hugely impressed by his ’15-year-old’ teammate Ethan Nwaneri, who made his debut for the Gunners. The Emirates rose to applaud Nwaneri as Arsenal unleashed another of their Hale End Products on the senior stage. The kid, as he should be called broke the English top flight’s longstanding record of 58 years to become the youngest player ever to feature in the Premier League.

Nwaneri plies his trade as an attacking midfielder for Arsenal’s Under-18 set up, impressing throughout his four appearances across Premier League 2 and U-18 Premier League. The teenager came on in the injury time against Brentford for another of Arsenal’s full debutante Fabio Vieira who arrived from Porto this summer. While Nwaneri could only live his moment for a minute, the loud cheers from the fans post the full time whistle would have certainly made his day.

Granit Xhaka
Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka was immensely proud seeing 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri create history by making his first-team debut for the club. Credits: Twitter

‘Coach’ Granit Xhaka urges the club to protect the 15-year-old

Granit Xhaka, who was the standing captain in the absence of Martin Odegaard lavished praise on Nwaneri for the progress he has attained at such young age. Nwaneri has made 4 appearances for the Arsenal U-18s so far this new season, and already collected 3 assists and a goal. He was rewarded with a first-team debut by Mikel Arteta as he also left behind former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas who held the record of youngest player at 16 years and 177 days to debut for the Gunners.

A history-maker, Nwaneri born in 2007 is even younger than his club, Arsenal’s Emirates stadium which opened in 2006. Granit Xhaka shed the light on the youngster’s development, who he has coached as well at U-16s since while doing his coaching licence. The 29-year-old said:

“We have to check [Ethan Nwaneri’s] passport first! I am joking. To have a guy who is 15 and is nearly 15 years younger than me. He looks old when I see him, but the club can be proud of a player like him. He has a big future. I am doing my coaching licence and I have trained the under-16s.

Granit Xhaka
Granit Xhaka, who has coached Nwaneri as well gave an insight on his development at the club’s youth set up. Credits: Twitter

“You can see a big difference with him and the other guys. He is very, very special. 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. It’s not only me that feels old. I spoke with one Brentford guy and I told him this guy was 15 and he looked at me and said: ‘f*** me, we are looking old!’.

“When you have 15 years difference you think ‘OK the time is not gone but it is on the way’. But we are enjoying him, he is enjoying us as he has the quality. He is not with us a lot in training. I have maybe seen him twice or three times now. He is very shy, of course, but the time will come when he will be more with us but you have to protect him and help him. Football is not everything for him and for us but yes, the club will help him and the experienced players have to help him.”

Nwaneri was showered with love by the visiting Arsenal fans who gave him a standing ovation at the full time whistle. Aaron Ramsdale even had to push the 15-year-old who was shying away in front of fans to make sure he receives the applause. The fans also chanted Granit Xhaka’s name as the Switzerland international has had a change in fortunes since Arteta’s appointment.

Nwaneri now joins the list of brilliant players Arsenal’s Hale End academy has produced in recent years. After Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Charlie Patino, Folarin Balogun, it seems Ethan Nwaneri is the next big thing out of the Gunners’ elite academy. However, Arteta will certainly take note of Xhaka’s call for the 15-year-old’s protection and take it step by step for his full induction in the first-team.