A former USMNT star who was once destined for great things has explained how Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri can block out the noise and become a success in north London.
Last month, Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri made Premier League history after becoming the youngest player to feature in England’s top-flight division at 15 years and 181 days.
Introduced from the bench late on against Brentford, Nwaneri overtook Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott, who previously held the record at 16 years and 30 days when he played for Fulham back in 2019. Arsenal may have won the match 3-0, but it was Nwaneri’s name that made the headlines afterwards.
There’s no denying that it would have been an incredibly special day for him and his family, but representing one of the world’s biggest clubs on one of the world’s biggest stages wouldn’t have been as easy as it looked for the youngster.
Speaking after the game, Granit Xhaka praised Nwaneri but reiterated the importance of protecting him from the limelight. “To have a guy who is fifteen, who is fifteen years younger than me…he looks old when I see him but the club can be proud of a player like him,” Xhaka said.
“He has a big future, if I am honest, I am doing my coaching licence and I have trained the Under-16s. You can see a big difference with him and the other guys. He is very, very special. Of course, you have to protect him as he is very young but if he keeps going like this with his hard work he has a big, big future.”
As Xhaka mentioned, Nwaneri is already very talented and continues to play above his age group within the Hale End academy. Last season, he was a regular for Arsenal’s U16s aged just 14 but made the step up to the U18s in February. It didn’t take long for him to showcase his quality, providing two assists in a 4-2 win over Reading U18s.
His rapid rise has continued since, claiming another assist on his U21s debut last month as well as making an appearance for the England U17s. Whilst the sky may be the limit for Nwaneri, former USMNT wonderkid Freddy Adu highlighted the challenges that he will face following his opportunity with the first team when speaking to Offers.Bet.
“I think Ethan is extremely impressive, especially given the league that he’s making that debut in, the Premier League, which is the best league in the world. To get your debut at 15 and for a big team in that league; that’s pretty impressive,” Adu said.
Adu made his professional debut for MLS side DC United at the age of just 14 and would go on to score his first goal before his 15th birthday, prompting manufacturing giant Nike to sign him up for an official partnership. Adu was labelled as ‘the next Pele’ and even ended up featuring in adverts alongside the legend himself, however, it was a dream short-lived.
Once viewed as the next big thing in the United States that was supposed to lead the men’s national team to bigger and better things, Adu’s career came crashing down after he moved to Europe at 18 and subsequently failed to live up to the expectations.
“There are a lot of distractions when you’re at that age, and Ethan is doing something that is not very common,” Adu continued. “It’s very unique and he’s going to get a lot of attention with a lot of people talking about him, which can bring a lot of fame – and you have to be able to handle that. It’s harder said than done, especially at that age.
“He’s just got to keep working hard, because it’s hard work that got him there in the first place, and you can never rest on your laurels. You can never take anything for granted. You have to cherish it, and you have to work your tail off even harder than you did before. Talent can only take you so far, and talent alone is not enough.”
Adu then went on to explain why he believes Nwaneri’s journey will be harder than his own, citing the stature and quality of Arsenal as two of the main reasons. “I think it’s going to be a lot harder for Ethan than it was for me because he’s already playing at such a big club, with so many world-class players at Arsenal, and in the best league in the world.
“I had my chance with DC United at 14, but the league wasn’t at the same level as the Premier League, so it’s going to be a lot harder for Ethan to get consistent playing time. So that is why he’s going to have to absolutely work his tail off to succeed because he’s already starting at a much harder level than I did.”