Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 victory at Brentford on Sunday but it was Ethan Nwaneri who grabbed the headlines.
Nwaneri made his professional debut for the Gunners, smashing the Premier League record for the youngest-ever player.
Making his debut as a late substitute at 15 years and 181 days old, Nwaneri was mixing it among the elite before he has even sat his GCSEs.
“We have been told in the last year or two from academy coaches and from Edu that we have certain talents that we need to look after,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta told talkSPORT.
“And the best way we need to reach something is to send a strong message that it’s not going to be about the age, the age doesn’t tell you a good player from a bad player.
“When you look at that boy I have a feeling that he has something special and now he makes a step forward and now maybe he needs ten steps backwards… it’s a nice moment.”
History has shown bursting onto the scene so young can be both a blessing and a curse.
The likes of Wayne Rooney and James Milner both made their debuts at 16 and went on to have long and successful careers – but others found their development halted under strong early expectations.
Here, talkSPORT.com runs through which category the nine other youngest Premier League players managed to fall into…
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10. Jack Robinson – (16 years and 250 days)
Robinson not only has the accolade of being one of the youngest Premier League players ever, he also proved to be Rafael Benitez’s last-ever substitute as Liverpool manager.
The defender replaced Ryan Babel late on in a 0-0 draw at Hull on the final day of the 2009/10 season.
Unfortunately for Robinson, he only made a further two appearances for Liverpool before stints at Blackpool, QPR and Huddersfield Town.
The now-29-year-old joined Sheffield United from Nottingham Forest back in 2020, but is currently out injured for the Championship leaders.
9. Reece Oxford (16 years and 236 days)
The Englishman was tipped as the next big thing after bursting onto the scene as a teenager for West Ham against Arsenal in 2015.
However, it was just one of eight top-flight appearances for Oxford during an eight-year spell in east London.
Most of his time in the senior ranks at West Ham was spent on loan with Reading and Borussia Monchengladbach, before a permanent switch to Augsburg in 2019 breathed new life into his career.
The 23-year-old is now a regular starter in the Bundesliga, and has shifted back in defence after coming through the ranks in midfield.
=7. Gary McSheffrey, (16 years and 198 days)
The current Doncaster Rovers manager once held the record as the youngster Premier League player for over four years.
McSheffrey made his professional bow in Coventry City’s 4-1 thrashing of local rivals Aston Villa in February 1999.
The then-journeyman striker racked up over 250 appearances for his hometown club, before playing for 11 different side at all four professional levels of English football.
=7. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (16 years and 198 days)
No 8 and No 7 on this list surprisingly made their first appearances at the exact same age – and Aston Villa was involved in both fixtures!
Only this time, the Villans had the chance to hand out the debut with Hepburn-Murphy taking to the field for them back in 2015.
The striker came on for Christian Benteke in a 4-0 win over Sunderland that proved vital as the club avoided relegation that season.
He went on to play just one more top-flight game for Villa before a brief stint in Cyprus for Pafos FC preceded a return to England with League Two Swindon Town earlier this month.
6. Jose Baxter (16 years and 191 days)
The attacking midfielder remains Everton’s youngest ever Premier League player after appearing on the opening day of the 2008/09 season in a 3-2 defeat to Blackburn.
He made his first start the following week but only managed a further five outings for the Toffees before suffering a series of setbacks.
Baxter initially left Everton in 2012 as a free agent and spent time at Oldham Athletic and Sheffield United.
Yet he was released by the Blades after incurring a 12-month drugs ban – which led to Everton handing him a one season lifeline following the end of his suspension.
A return to Oldham and a brief spell at Plymouth Argyle preceded a surprise switch to Memphis 901 FC in America’s second-tier.
Baxter hung up his boots in 2021 at just 29.
5. Aaron Lennon (16 years and 129 days)
The former England international is a prime example of a youngster who did indeed make the most of his talents in contrast to Baxter.
Lennon first raced onto the scene with Leeds in a 2-1 to Tottenham at White Hart Lane in August 2003.
It proved to be Spurs where Lennon later made his name, winning the last trophy the north Londoners have claimed – the League Cup in 2008 – during his 364 games.
The 21-cap international spent 16 seasons of his 18-season career in the Premier League, and is a free agent after leaving Burnley following their relegation at the end of the last campaign.
4. Izzy Brown (16 years and 117 days)
Chelsea have often been accused of wasting young stars after snapping them up early only to never really give them a chance.
And a prime example could be levied at Brown, who was handed his Premier League debut by West Brom during the closing stages of the club’s 3-2 defeat to Wigan on the final day of the 2012/13 term.
He was signed by Chelsea that summer after one appearance for the Baggies but he only ended up featuring once for the Blues as well.
Brown, 25, left Stamford Bridge in June 2021 after no fewer than seven spells out on loan and is currently a free agent after leaving Preston.
3. Matthew Briggs (16 years and 98 days)
The first of two Fulham starlets, Briggs held the record of the youngest Premier League player for 12 years until he was surpassed by a fellow Craven Cottage academy graduate.
The defender took over the mantle during the Cottagers’ 3-1 defeat to Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2006/2007 season.
Briggs went onto play for 15 clubs at various different levels in his career, from Premier League Fulham to non-league side Gosport Borough – with spells in Denmark in between.
The former England U21 international switched his allegiance to Guyana in 2015 and has played 15 games for his country.
2. Harvey Elliott (16 years and 30 days)
Elliott broke Briggs’ record almost exactly 12 years to the day when he made his bow on the penultimate weekend of the 2018/19 campaign.
He had already appeared among the senior ranks in the League Cup earlier that season, before facing Wolves in the Premier League.
Liverpool wasted little time in bringing him to Anfield that summer and so highly-rated is Elliott that he ended up becoming the Reds’ youngster ever starter the following season as well.
The England U21 international is now a key figure in Jurgen Klopp’s first-choice XI and is thought to be an outside bet for inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.
1. Ethan Nwaneri (15 years and 181 days)
On September 18, 2022, Nwaneri smashed Elliott’s feat by 214 days and also knocked former Arsenal star Jack Wilshere out of the top ten.
With the Gunners cruising to a 3-0 win, Arteta sent on the youngster to replace Fabio Vieira in stoppage time.
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