Ethan Nwaneri became our youngest ever player when he came on as a late substitute against Brentford on Sunday, breaking a club record that had stood for nearly 20 years.
Aged 15 years and 181 days, the academy product – too young even to sign scholarship forms until next season – took the record from Cesc Fabregas, who was nearly a whole year older when he played in the League Cup against Rotherham United at Highbury in October 2003.
Cesc was 16 years and 177 days old at the time, and went on to play 303 times for us, scoring 57 goals, in a glittering Gunner career.
Schoolboy Ethan wasn’t born when Cesc set the old record, his date of birth is March 21, 2007. That’s after we moved to Emirates Stadium in 2006.
Ethan also became the first ever 15-year-old to play in the Premier League, taking the record as youngest player in the competition from Harvey Elliot, who was 16 years and 30 days old when he played for Fulham in May 2019.
Our previous youngest Premier League player was Jack Wilshere, who was 16 years and 256 days when making his debut against Blackburn Rovers back in September 2008. In a nice bit of symmetry, Jack is now Ethan’s coach for the under-18 side.
It means 82 of our last 200 first-team debutants – stretching back to the beginning of the millennium – were products of the Arsenal Academy.
Ethan’s record transcends the Premier League era too. He’s also now the youngest player ever to appear in a top-flight match in English football, beating the previous record held by Sunderland’s Derek Foster in August 1964. Foster was just three days older at 15 and 184 days.
An attacking midfielder at home in the No. 10 role, Ethan came on in the 90th minute at the Brentford Community Stadium, sporting the number 83 shirt, replacing Fabio Vieira. In the process, he became the 893rd player to represent the Arsenal first-team.
It all adds to what has been a remarkable 2022 so far for the London-born teenager.
At the end of last season he made his debut for our under-18 side, then earlier this season made the step up to under-21 football, starting in our 4-1 win over Blackburn at the start of September, and contributing an assist.
Joining Hale End at the age of eight back in 2015, Ethan has already been capped by England at both under-16 and under-17 levels – he is currently with the U17s at the Syrenka Cup.
So what’s next for Ethan? Well how about aiming to become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer? That record is currently held by Fabregas, who was 16 and 212 days when he scored in the League Cup in December 2003. That means he has until the middle of October 2023 to get himself on the scoresheet and write some more history, though he is not eligible for the group stage of the Europa League this season.