Arsenal: Per Mertesacker gives verdict on record-breaker Ethan Nwaneri | Football

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Ethan Nwaneri, right, became the youngest player in Premier League history (Picture: Getty)

Per Mertesacker has heaped praise on Arsenal record-breaker Ethan Nwaneri and says the 15-year-old ‘ticks a lot of boxes’ as a player.

Nwaneri became the youngest Premier League player in history when he made a brief appearance in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Brentford before the international break.

The midfielder, who was born in March 2007, was only called up for first-team training for the first time a day before Arsenal’s trip to west London.

But Nwaneri has impressed those at Arsenal for a number of years and Mertesacker says his first-team debut was the next step in his progression.

Speaking on the club’s YouTube channel, Arsenal academy manager and former Gunners defender Mertesacker said: ‘Ethan has been a part of the pre-academy, he has been around football since he was five years old, then he came to our academy as an under nine.

‘It’s about knowing the boy, knowing the family, having close contacts.

‘Especially with this example, it will test us but we’re ready for it and Ethan was on the pitch because he deserves it.

Per Mertesacker has been working with Arsenal’s academy players (Picture: Getty)

‘He went through all of our age groups and ticks a lot of boxes. He played fabulous with the U18s and deserved to be training with the U21s.

‘He’s a humble guy and he’s so focused and he’s now made the next step up.’

Mertesacker, who made more than 200 appearances for Arsenal, also believes Arteta’s decision to call up Nwaneri will have a positive knock-on effect throughout the club’s academy.

‘Mikel gave everyone a powerful message,’ he said. ‘I have to say how much it trickled down.

‘I’ve seen videos of the under-9, under-10 squads cheering Ethan on at Hale End when he came on. Players that would start the same journey as he did, in the grassroots academy, were cheering him on.

‘So all of a sudden he has been escalated to be a role model and a positive influence for young players.

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‘It’s just brilliant to see, that’s what we are proud of, that we can show progression, that we can show pathways.

‘It was a very proud moment, first of all for himself and his family. It’s a reflection as well of what this club is about, what the academy is about.

‘A lot of youngsters entering the academy have the dream of playing for Arsenal Football Club and he made that dream come true. It was a proud moment for us as an academy.’


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