Mikel Arteta has been accused of being ‘irresponsible’ and ‘self-indulgent’ in his decision to hand Ethan Nwaneri his senior Arsenal debut at the age of 15.
The young midfielder came off the bench for the final two minutes and 40 seconds of a 3-0 victory over Brentford – making him the youngest Premier League player in history.
Making his senior Premier League debut at the age of 15 years and 181 days has seen Nwaneri take the record off Liverpool ace Harvey Elliott, who was aged 16 years and 30 days when he made his debut for Fulham back in 2019.
Nwaneri, born in 2007, has also become the youngest player to appear in English top flight history – the previous holder of that record was Sunderland’s Derek Foster who played when he was aged 15 years and 184 days.
talkSPORT host and former Chelsea defender Jason Cundy was delighted for the youngster after making his big break in the big league.
However, he believes Arteta’s motive for the decision was purely a selfish one, as he hit out at the Gunners manager who he claims ‘doesn’t care’ about the starlet.
“Look, the first thing, congratulations to him – what an achievement,” he told fellow Sports Bar host Jamie O’Hara.
“I don’t take anything away from what he’s done there. I love the way Arsenal fans were singing, ‘He’s got school in the morning’. He’s made his parents, the academy, his school, he’s made everyone who has made an impact on his career very proud.
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“I’m delighted for him on a personal level, it’s unbelievable… but there is a big but coming – Arteta doesn’t really care about the boy.
“I’m sorry, but I think that’s a really poor decision… because it’s about Arteta. It’s all about Arteta. I think that’s self-indulgent – ‘I am the manager who played the youngest ever player in the Premier League. That was me’.
“When I saw the kid on the bench I thought it was great. The first time I was on the bench at 17, so I thought what a brilliant experience for the kid.
“But when he was warming up, and then he was coming on, I was thinking, ‘This is ridiculous’. This has got nothing to do with the kid, this is all about Arteta. It’s self-indulgent, ‘Look what I’ve done, I’ve given the youngest ever player his first appearance in the Premier League’.
“I don’t think it’s got anything to do with anything else other than that, and I think it was a really poor decision.
“I heard Danny Murphy on talkSPORT Breakfast this morning, he said he didn’t think it was a good thing for the boy, and I thought he was being kind.
“Time will tell, but I think it’s a poor decision. It’s not about the boy. He came on with seconds to go, barely touched the ball, so it had nothing to do with a performance, it had everything to do with just making an appearance.
“If it was about a performance or about the player, why didn’t Arteta bring him on with 15 minutes or ten minutes to go?
“I get they’ve had injuries, and if needs must you promote the kids, but there were other players on the bench who could have come on. He’s still a kid and the pressure that will be mounting on him now…
“From what I’ve read and heard about him, he’s going to be a superstar, but putting him on at 15 does nothing to help his career.
“He’s a young boy and you’ve got to be careful with young kids. What about the care of being responsible for a young teenage boy?
“I think it’s irresponsible, I really do.”