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Mikel Arteta challenges historic Arsenal prodigy to break into first team

Mikel Arteta has issued a challenge to Arsenal rising star, urging him to stake his claim for a spot in the first team

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has issued a challenge to rising star Ethan Nwaneri, urging the talented teenager to stake his claim for a spot in the Gunners’ first team following the signing of his first professional contract.

Nwaneri, who made headlines last season as the youngest player in Premier League history at just 15 years and 181 days old, has committed his future to Arsenal by inking a professional deal last week. Despite interest from top clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, Arsenal succeeded in retaining the promising midfielder’s services.

The 17-year-old prodigy showcased his potential earlier this year when he made a cameo appearance in Arsenal’s resounding 6-0 victory over West Ham United in February. Arteta acknowledged Nwaneri’s proximity to the senior squad and issued a challenge for him to seize the opportunity.

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Expressing his delight at Nwaneri’s contract extension, Arteta remarked, “I was really happy [for Nwaneri signing a professional contract],” he said. “He had a great day, he had all his family and important people around him. 

Ethan Nwaneri - Arsenal

Arsenal youngster Ethan Nwaneri (Image credit: Getty Images)

“A really proud moment to see another academy graduate signing his pro contract. He is very close to the first team. The opportunity is there, now he needs to take it.”

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Throughout the current season, Nwaneri has predominantly featured for Arsenal youth teams, demonstrating his prowess by notching up an impressive tally of 14 goals in as many appearances.

Arsenal academy manager, Per Mertesacker, praised Nwaneri’s development journey, highlighting his journey from the pre-academy ranks to his recent first-team debut. Mertesacker emphasised the club’s commitment to supporting Nwaneri’s continued growth and the midfielder’s adeptness in controlling possession, a trait integral to Arsenal’s footballing philosophy.

“We are extremely proud of Ethan and his journey, from pre-academy to Hale End, then a seamless transition to Sobha Realty Training Centre and then making his first-team debut. 

“Ethan’s journey now continues, and we will all be there alongside him to support his development. Ethan has a strong ability to master the ball and dominate possession, this is what we are all about at Arsenal Football Club.”

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