Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri Becomes Youngest Premier League Player Ever

Photo Credit: AP

Success comes early for some. A new record was set in September 2022 when Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest Premier League player to step onto the pitch. It may have only been a late substitute appearance for the teenager, but it was a notable one because of his age.

Nwaneri Becomes Youngest Ever Premier League Player

It was in stoppage time of Arsenal’s trip to the Brentford Community Stadium on September 19th, 2022 that the new Premier League record was set. 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri was sent on by Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta to replace Ferreira Vieira.

The number 83 came onto the pitch as Arsenal were cruising to a 3-0 win over Brentford. At 15 years and 181 days, the midfielder became the youngest Premier League player ever.

There wasn’t exactly the time for him to make any kind of impression. But the situation was not about that. It was about an experience for Nwaneri and a reward for having put in some impressive work on the Arsenal youth scene.

Nwaneri Smashes Elliott’s Record.

AP22256725782169 300x200
Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott controls the ball during the Champions League group A soccer match between Liverpool and Ajax at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

The previous youngest Premier League player was Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott. He was given his first Premier League appearance by Fulham in May 2019. Elliot too was a late substitute on his Premier League debut.

He came on in the 88th minute and was given a few minutes at Molineux as Fulham slipped to a 1-0 loss against Wolves. Elliott had previously set a record for being the youngest ever player to appear in the EFL Cup.

Elliott’s Premier League debut happened at the ago 16 years and 30 days. So his record was soundly smashed by Arsenal’s Nwaneri. But the path of Elliott has to be a source of inspiration for Nwaneri.

Harvey Elliott signed for Liverpool in 2019 and made a Premier League debut for them in September of the same year. In his short time with the club, after being the youngest ever Premier League player, Elliott is already an FA Cup, FA Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, winner.

The old adage of “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough” certainly rings true in Elliott’s case.

Nwaneri Claims More Than Just Youngest Premier League Player Title

More than just being the youngest player to play in the Premier League, Ethan Nwaneri has further records under his belt as well. He is now the youngest ever player to make a competitive appearance for Arsenal. That record was previously held by former Spain international Cesc Fabregas at 16 years and 177 days.

Nwaneri has also taken the record of Jack Wilshere, who was the previous youngest player to appear in a League fixture for Arsenal. It’s obviously too early in his career to talk about what levels Nwaneri can reach or even future international appearances for England.

But the overarching thing about his appearances is rapid development. Nwaneri has been regularly appearing for the Arsenal under-18 and under-21 sides. He’s been with the club, working his way through the youth ranks at Arsenal since 2016. Nwaneri didn’t just appear overnight, he has put the work in.

Nwaneri also broke a record in the English top flight that had been standing since August 1964. That was when Derek Forster, a goalkeeper with Sunderland made his professional debut at 15 years and 184 days. Nwaneri beat Forster’s top-flight record by three days.

Younger Than The Emirates!

Premier League side Arsenal moved into the new Emirates Stadium for the start of the 2006/07 season. Nwaneri wasn’t even born when that happened. So how did the 15-year-old get into the position of even being on the bench for Arsenal’s first team squad in a Premier League match?

Head coach Mikel Arteta had cited mounting injury problems at the club as the sole reason. Because of that, Nwaneri was one of three players from the club’s youth ranks that Arsenal had named on the substitutes bench for the fixture.

But that doesn’t explain why Arteta decided to use him. Usually, when youth players are called up to fill spots on the bench, they don’t get onto the field of play. But Arteta simply explained the decision to bring on Nwaneri as a “gut feeling”. Arteta explained that the day before he had had a feeling about him.

The Arsenal coach was also keen to press home that the experience gained, doesn’t guarantee that Nwaneri is going to be a regular in the first team squad. Arteta succinctly explained that life as a professional football player means that you can go backwards and forwards.

Nwaneri’s Attacking Style

Ethan Nwaneri is an attacking player, generally in the shape of the “number 10”. But the youngster does look to be a versatile player, occupying other roles for the Gunners in attack and midfield. He has a good finish on him as well.

In 2021 as a 14-year-old, Newaneri netted his first goal for the Arsenal U18 side with a spectacular effort. He fired in a strike from long range with his left foot, just minutes after coming on as a substitue in the fixture.

Nwaneri has punched above his weight during his time in the Arsenal youth ranks, playing above his age grade. But he will likely be a firm fixture back in the youth setup, unless, of course, more injury problems come Arsenal’s way.

Last 10 Youngest Premier League Player Record Holders

  1. Ethan Nwaneri (15y 181d)
  2. Harvey Elliott (16y, 30d)
  3. Matthew Briggs (16y, 68d)
  4. Isaiah Brown (16y, 117d)
  5. Aaron Lennon (16y, 129d)
  6. Jose Baxter (16y, 191d)
  7. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (16y, 198d)
  8. Gary McSheffrey (16y, 198d)
  9. Reece Oxford (16y, 236d)
  10. Jack Robinson (16y, 250d)

Records To Be Broken

As the old saying goes, records are there to be broken. Young players getting their professional debut at the top level of the domestic game is nothing new. Some just fade away and never make the full grade in the top tier. Others fulfil that potential and go on to record Premier League careers and even put in appearances in the UEFA Champions League.

Let’s look at the five previous lads, who had sequentially claimed the youngest player to play in the Premier League title before Nwaneri came along.

Harvey Elliott (16y, 30d)

Liverpool’s Elliott has already had his mention, having become the previous youngest Premier League player in 2019. Elliott moved to Liverpool very shortly after making his then-record-breaking appearance in the Premier League for Fulham.

But, he’s not the youngest ever player to feature for Liverpool in a League match. That honour rests with Jack Robinson who played for the Reds back in 2010 at 16 years and 250 days.

Matthew Briggs (16y, 68d)

Before Harvey Elliott, the youngest player to play in the Premier League was Matthew Briggs. He stepped onto the pitch for Fulham back in 2007, a match that the Cottagers lost 3-1 away at Middlesbrough.

Briggs held the age record for well over a decade before it was broken by Elliott. The career of Briggs never took off though. He only made 13 Premier League appearances in total and the Guyana international knocked around the lower tiers of English football.

Isaiah Brown (16y, 117d)

More commonly known as Izzy Brown, there was a big weight of expectation on the shoulders of the young West Brom player. He came onto the pitch to make his Premier League debut as a 16-year-old in 2013.

He was on the losing side on the day, West Brom going down 3-2 at the Hawthorns to Wigan. Like Briggs, who would beat his age record, things never panned out at the top level for Isaiah Brown. He was snapped up by Chelsea from West Brom but only played once for them in the EPL.

Brown was sent out on loan by Chelsea to clubs like Vitesse, Rotherham, Brighton and Leeds. The former England youth international though could never quite seem to take his career to the next level. He was released by Preston in the summer of 2021.

AP22044556270213 300x223
Burnley’s Aaron Lennon, left, duels for the ball with Liverpool’s Naby Keita during the English Premier League soccer match between Burnley and Liverpool at Turf Moor, in Burnley, England, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Aaron Lennon (16y, 129d)

One of the more famous names on the list in terms of rising to the very top of the game. Aaron Lennon became the Premier League’s youngest player in August 2003 when he played for Leeds against Tottenham.

The latter was the team that Lennon would go on to sign for and it was his time with Spurs that saw him thrive. Lennon played 11 minutes on his debut and while his age record as the youngest player in the EPL has been broken a few times, there is one title that he does still hold.

Aaron Lennon is still the youngest ever player to have an assist in the Premier League. 70 days after his Premier League debut, Lennon assisted a consolation goal for boyhood club Leeds in a 4-1 hammering against Arsenal, a goal scored by Alan Smith.

Lennon, who now plays for Championship club Burnley, was called up to the England squad for both the 2006 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He is the all-time third-youngest ever player to represent England in the tournament.

Youngest Player To Score In The Premier League

That does leave us with who the youngest player to score in the Premier League is. There are some big hitters, some famous names of Premier League history who have at one time or another, held this particular record.

Wayne Rooney for example became the youngest player to score in Premier League history when he netted for Everton at Goodison Park against Arsenal in October 2002. Former Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen, who went on to Galacticos status at La Liga side Real Madrid, was just 17 years old when he netted his Premier League goal. Owen still holds the record for the youngest player ever to score a Premier League hat trick, a feat he achieved in 1998 at 18 years old.

Like Owen, Cesc Fabregas also opened his Premier League account as a 17-year-old. Fabregas incidentally is the youngest non-English player to score in the Premier League. But the youngest player to score in the Premier League is James Vaughan.

Vaughan was 16 years and 270 days old when he netted his first top-flight goal in 2005 for Everton. Also breaking the club record (at the time) for the youngest ever player, Vaughan netted three minutes from time. Bringing that full circle, also in the Everton side that day was Mikel Arteta, who just handed Ethan Nwaneri the record for the youngest ever Premier League player.

Last 10 Youngest Premier League Goalscorers

  1. James Vaughan (16y 270d)
  2. James Milner (16y 356d)
  3. Wayne Rooney (16y 360d)
  4. Cesc Fàbregas (17y 113d)
  5. Michael Owen (17y 143d)
  6. Andy Turner (17y 166d)
  7. Federico Macheda (17y 226d)
  8. Daniel Jebbison (17y 309d)
  9. Raheem Sterling (17y 317d)
  10. Mikael Forssell (17y 342d)