This week our statistician Josh James looks at Arsenal's all-time youngest players.

When he came off the bench on Wednesday evening, Serge Gnabry became the 40th player under the age of 18 to play for the Arsenal first team.

Aged 17 years and 74 days, the German forward is actually the 12th youngest player ever to represent the Club, and the 809th player overall to play for the Gunners.

Of the forty 16 and 17 year olds to be given a first-team debut, 21 (52.5 per cent) did so under Arsène Wenger.

The League Cup, especially recently, is the most popular time for young players to be blooded. Of the 21 players on the list to be give given their first-team bow by Wenger, all but three made their debut in the League Cup.

The exceptions were Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere (both Premier League) and Aaron Ramsey, who is the only player on the entire list to make his debut in European football (Champions League).

Prior to Wenger's arrival only one 16/17 year-old (John Woodward) had their first taste of playing for Arsenal in the League Cup, the others all made their bow in league football.

Whereas the choice of competition for blooding youngsters may have changed over the years, it seems as though venue is unimportant when a manager decides to give a 16/17 year old his first run out. Twenty-five (62.5 per cent) of the players on the list made their debut in an away match, while the other 15 did so at home.

16/17 year-olds to play for Arsenal
Player Age Competition Opposition Venue Date AFC Career games AFC Career goals
Cesc Fabregas 16 years 177 days League Cup Rotherham United H October 28, 2003 303 57
Jack Wilshere 16 years 256 days Premier League Blackburn Rovers A September 13, 2008 64 3
Jermaine Pennant 16 years 319 days League Cup Middlesbrough A November 30, 1999 26 3
Gerry Ward 16 years 321 days League Huddersfield Town H August 22, 1953 84 10
Ryan Smith 16 years 352 days League Cup Rotherham United H October 28, 2003 6 0
Armand Traore 17 years 16 days League Cup West Bromwich Albion A October 24, 2006 32 0
Henri Lansbury 17 years 19 days League Cup Sheffield United A October 31, 2007 8 1
Tony Adams 17 years 26 days League Sunderland H November 5, 1983 669 48
Mark Randall 17 years 26 days League Cup West Bromwich Albion A October 24, 2006 13 0
John Radford 17 years 28 days League West Ham United A March 21, 1964 482 149
Stewart Robson 17 years 29 days League West Ham United A December 5, 1981 186 21
Serge Gnabry 17 years 74 days League Cup Coventry City H September 26, 2012 1 0
Anthony Stokes 17 years 92 days League Cup Sunderland A October 25, 2005 1 0
David O'Leary 17 years 106 days League Burnley A August 16, 1975 722 14
Gavin McGowan 17 years 110 days Premier League Sheffield Wednesday A May 6, 1993 7 0
Arturo Lupoli 17 years 125 days League Cup Manchester City A October 27, 2004 9 3
Francis Coquelin 17 years 133 days League Cup Sheffield United H September 23, 2008 25 0
Theo Walcott 17 years 156 days Premier League Aston Villa H August 19, 2006 226 45
Nacer Barazite 17 years 157 days League Cup Sheffield United A October 31, 2007 3 0
Richie Powling 17 years 159 days League Queens Park Rangers A October 27, 1973 59 3
Quincy Owusu-Abeyie 17 years 196 days League Cup Rotherham United H October 28, 2003 23 2
George Armstrong 17 years 199 days League Blackpool A February 24, 1962 621 68
Fabrice Muamba 17 years 202 days League Cup Sunderland A October 25, 2005 2 0
Cliff Bastin 17 years 205 days League Everton A October 5, 1929 396 178
Fran Merida 17 years 205 days League Cup Newcastle United H September 25, 2007 16 2
Paul Vaessen 17 years 210 days League Chelsea A May 14, 1979 41 9
Aaron Ramsey 17 years 231 days Champions League FC Twente A August 13, 2008 109 9
Liam Brady 17 years 235 days League Birmingham City H October 6, 1973 307 59
Tommy Meade 17 years 238 days League Leicester Fosse A January 7, 1895 14 7
John Woodward 17 years 268 days League Cup West Ham United H October 5, 1966 4 0
Jon Sammels 17 years 278 days League Blackpool A April 27, 1963 270 52
Nicklas Bendtner 17 years 282 days League Cup Sunderland A October 25, 2005 157 45
Johan Djourou 17 years 283 days League Cup Manchester City A October 27, 2004 144 1
Moritz Volz 17 years 285 days League Cup Ipswich Town H November 1, 2000 2 0
Reg Lewis 17 years 300 days League Everton H January 1, 1938 176 118
David Price 17 years 320 days League Leeds United A May 9, 1973 177 19
Brian McDermott 17 years 336 days League Bristol City H March 10, 1979 72 13
Ray Parkin 17 years 339 days League Sunderland A January 1, 1929 26 11
John Snedden 17 years 347 days League Tottenham Hotspur A January 16, 1960 94 0
Paolo Vernazza 17 years 347 days League Cup Birmingham City H October 14, 1997 12 1

So how well do these wonderkids tend to do in their Arsenal careers after making an early start? A quick look at the names on the list should tell you that, generally, the answer is very well.

Among the players listed are the Club's top three all-time leading appearance makers (David O'Leary, Tony Adams and George Armstrong), the former club record scorer (Cliff Bastin) as well as two other members of the '100 Club' (John Radford and Reg Lewis).

Of the active players still on the list, Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey in particular are players who look set to have long and successful careers ahead of them.

Not including Gnabry, the other 39 players who made debuts aged 16 or 17 have gone on to play an average of 143.2 first-team games for Arsenal (including those still at the Club).

This is nearly twice as many, on average, as in a 'typical' Arsenal career. Eight hundred and nine players have now represented the Club, each making an average 74.4 career appearances.

As far as goals are concerned, the 39 on the list scored an average of 24.4 each, which again compares very favourably with the all-time average. In fact it is more than twice the average for a typical Arsenal career – 10.7 goals.

Of all the 16/17 year-olds to make their debut, only Anthony Stokes did not go on to play any more games for Arsenal.

Then aged 17 and 92 days, the Irish forward played just two minutes at the end of a Carling Cup game against Sunderland in 2005. He later joined Sunderland (in 2007) and, now aged 24, he plays for Scottish champions Celtic. He remains the 13th youngest player to turn out for the Gunners.

Behind The Numbers

Behind The Numbers

When Tommy Meade played against Leicester Fosse in 1895, he became the first 17-year-old to represent the Club. A striker who scored seven goals from 14 appearances, he went on to sign for Tottenham Hotspur, and remained the Gunners' youngest player until Cliff Bastin played against Everton in Division One on October 5, 1929.

Nicknamed 'The Boy Bastin' he had scored 100 goals for Arsenal by the age of 23 and finished with 178 goals in all - a club record which stood for more than 50 years. He was the first player to win the league title, FA Cup and an England cap as a teenager.

In the 1950s Gerry Ward broke new ground when he became the first ever 16-year-old to represent Arsenal.

The winger played against Huddersfield at the beginning of the 1953/54 season, and made 84 appearances, scoring 10 goals, before National Service in the Army interrupted his career. He later played for Leyton Orient and Cambridge City before becoming a banker.

His record lasted the best part of half a century, before Jermaine Pennant - following his high-profile move from Notts County - usurped him in November 1999. The winger, aged 16 years and 319 days, came on during the Worthington Cup fourth-round defeat to Middlesbrough. It was a further three and a half years before he made his first Premier League start – marking the occasion with a hat-trick - against Southampton in 2003. He left for Birmingham City in 2005, and is now at Stoke.

The current holder of the youngest player record though, is Cesc Fabregas. Having joined the Arsenal academy in the summer of 2003, he didn't have long to wait for his debut. On October 28, 2003 he was named in the starting line-up for the Carling Cup third-round game at home to Rotherham United. Fabregas was taken off after 85 minutes as the Gunners eventually went through on penalties.

In the next round Fabregas scored against Wolves to become Arsenal's youngest ever goalscorer (aged 16 and 212 days). After playing more than 300 times for Gunners, scoring 57 goals, he left for boyhood club Barcelona in 2011 and has won the European Championship twice and the World Cup once.

How the record for youngest player has evolved
Player Age Season
Tommy Meade 17 years, 238 days 1894/95
Cliff Bastin 17 years, 205 days 1929/30
Gerry Ward 16 years, 321 days 1953/54
Jermaine Pennant 16 years, 319 days 1999/2000
Cesc Fabregas 16 years, 177 days 2003/04

Stats correct as at September 27, 2012.

Josh James also provides the stats for the Arsenal Analysis pages of the matchday programme.

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
27 Sep 2012