John Barnes is the latest to have his say on Ethan Nwaneri and has supported the decision to hand the teenager a record appearance in the Premier League.
THE LOWDOWN: RECORD-APPEARANCE
Arsenal cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win at the Community Stadium. But something record-breaking happened in the game as Ethan Nwaneri came on as a substitute for Fabio Vieira in stoppage time to make his Arsenal debut.
Schoolboy Nwaneri also became the first ever 15-year-old to play in the Premier League, taking the record as the youngest player in the competition from Harvey Elliot, who was 16 years and 30 days old when he played for Fulham in May 2019.
Nwaneri first joined the Arsenal youth academy in 2016 at the age of nine and has been with the North London club since then. He has taken squad number 83 in his first season as part of the first-team squad.
Arteta said it was a gut feeling to throw Nwaneri into the deep of Premier League football and it has brought mixed reactions so far.
While many have labelled the Spaniard’s decision as a bold statement, a host of others have criticized the idea of fielding a player who is barely 16.
Danny Murphy recently was among those to criticize Arteta but John Barnes sees the situation in a different light.
THE LATEST: BARNES ENDORSED NWANERI’S DEBUT
In a sit-down with Bonuscodebets.co.uk, Barnes sees no issue with fielding a 15-year-old, especially as Arsenal are particularly known for grooming youngsters.
He said: “If you look at the future, the future looks bright for Arsenal in terms of a lot of the young players. Saka, you know Martinelli, Odegaard. They’ve got a good, young team. But a 15-year-old being given his debut?”
“You should leave him alone because of course Theo Walcott made his debut at 16 and this young boy coming in is not going to be anywhere near Arsenal’s first team to be honest with you when push comes to shove.”
“It’s great for Arsenal to say we’ve got good young players coming through but all of a sudden I don’t want people to then put so much pressure on this young boy because he made his debut to say he should be playing all the time. It’s great for him and great for Arsenal for the future.”
He added: “I’m not saying it’s a gimmick because he’s good enough to obviously be playing but I don’t think it’s a situation whereby you’re looking at a Lionel Messi at 16 or Cristiano Ronaldo knowing that he’s going to go in the team and play every week.”
“So it’s good news at Arsenal pushing their youngsters through but I don’t want to put pressure on this young boy and all of a sudden overemphasise that he should be playing this season or even next season.”
THE VERDICT: TIME WILL TELL
Arteta and current manager of the Arsenal Academy, Per Mertesacker, obviously saw something in Nwaneri before making that decision. No need to criticize his actions but only time will tell if it was the right call to make or not.