Mikel Arteta has revealed Arsenal players who were on the bench on Sunday against West Ham pleaded with him to bring on academy talent Ethan Nwanerion.
The Gunners were in spectacular form at the London Stadium, handing West Ham a 6-0 thrashing to appease the stress the Hammers have put Arsenal through this season.
The game was already settled when Arteta decided to give Nwaneri his second senior debut and the young man did not disappoint with senior squad members like Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka praising the young talent.
Arteta deemed it an opportune moment to give Nwaneri some playing time, marking his first appearance since September of the previous year. Despite his youth, the Hale End graduate displayed remarkable composure, seamlessly maneuvering on the ball and challenging the West Ham defense.
The Arsenal players responding to Ethan Nwaneri via Instagram, after the 16-year-old came off the bench today against West Ham.
A special special talent. 💫 pic.twitter.com/nDLQfXwmuK
— now.arsenal (@now_arsenaI) February 11, 2024
Nwaneri’s performance drew admiration from key players like captain Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice, with the passing statistics reflecting a high level of trust. Odegaard and Nwaneri exchanged passes 15 times, highlighting the teenager’s seamless integration into the team.
Post-game, Nwaneri took to Instagram to share snapshots of his impressive display. The comment section provided further insight into the appreciation he garnered from teammates. Ben White expressed his admiration with the ‘praise hands’ emoji, while William Saliba opted for three fire emojis. Bukayo Saka, acknowledging the challenge of breaking into the Arsenal first-team, described Nwaneri as a “baller.” However, it was Rice’s assessment that resonated most, labeling the young midfielder a “special, special talent.”
During the post-match media briefing, Arteta emphasissed the significance of trust within the team. “There is something that you have to earn in your team and that is the trust of your team-mates. I had two things. One, the players on the bench whispering ‘Bring Ethan in!’, which is a great thing to hear,” Arteta stated.
“The other thing is for your team-mates to give you the ball all the time. If they do that, it’s because they really trust you and you only have to see how many times he was involved in that. So it’s a great sign.”
Nwaneri had already made history last season when he became the youngest player to feature in a Premier League game at just 15 years and 181 days. While his future appearances in the league this season remain uncertain, the overwhelming support from Arteta, Rice, and Odegaard signals a promising trajectory for the talented teenage midfielder.