Mikel Arteta has been accused of making a self-indulgent decision in handing Ethan Nwaneri his record breaking Premier League debut by former Chelsea defender Jason Cundy.
The Gunners continued their fine start to the new campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over the Bees and avenged last season’s embarrassing opening night defeat at the same venue.
Such was Arsenal’s dominance that Arteta felt comfortable enough to hand Nwaneri, aged just 15 years and 181 days, his maiden appearance in injury time.
Explaining his decision in his post match press conference, Arteta said: ‘It was a pure gut feeling, I met the kid and I liked what I saw.
‘He has trained a couple of times with us and I had a feeling yesterday that if the opportunity came I would do it.
‘But I think it sends a strong message about who we are as a club. I told him yesterday he would be with us and he had to be ready. He is ready. When he went on I said ‘congratulations and enjoy it.
‘I don’t know what it is. When I met him, when I looked at him, I had that feeling.’
Youngest Ever PL Players
Ethan Nwaneri (Arsneal) – 15 years, 5 months, 28 days
Harvey Elliott (Fulham) – 16 years, 1 month
Matthew Briggs (Fulham) – 16 years, 2 months, 7 days
Izzy Brown (Chelsea) – 16 years, 3 months, 27 days
Aaron Lennon (Leeds Utd) – 16 years, 4 months, 7 days
Cundy, however, insists the decision to select the teenager will only add unnecessary pressure to a player who is already being compared to the likes of Phil Foden.
He told talkSPORT: ‘Arteta doesn’t care about the boy. I think that’s a really poor decision. It’s about Arteta all about Arteta. The manager that played the youngest ever player in the Premier League is me. I think that’s self-indulgent.
‘When I saw the kid on the bench I thought that was great for him. What a brilliant experience for the kid.
‘But when I saw him warming up I thought this is ridiculous. This has got nothing to do with the kid this is all about Arteta, all about him, look what I’ve done. Time will tell.
‘He came on and he hardly touched the ball. He came on with seconds to go. This is about him making an appearance, nothing to do with the performance. Why didn’t he bring him on with 10 or 15 minutes to go?
‘There’s other players on that bench that could have come on. It’s the wrong decision because he’s still a kid. There’s pressure mounting already. From everything I’ve heard he’s going to be a superstar but putting him on at 15 does nothing to help his career.
‘I think it’s irresponsible. What’s Arteta going to do next week? Pick a 14-year-old. I’m deadly serious here.’
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