Danny Murphy reckons that Mikel Arteta may live to regret his decision to hand Ethan Nwaneri his Premier League debut at 15.
The young midfielder was brought off the bench during the weekend’s 3-0 victory over Brentford – becoming the youngest-ever Premier League player at the age of 15 years and 181 days.
Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott previously held the record, having made his senior debut for Fulham in 2019 at the age of 16 years and 30 days.
While acknowledging that Nwaneri is clearly deserving of being handed his opportunity for the Gunners’ senior team, ex-Liverpool man Murphy has warned of the detrimental impact it could have on his progression.
Speaking to talkSPORT Breakfast, Murphy said: “I’m not convinced that it’s the best move for a young player, I’m really not.
“He’s obviously a super talent and doing well in training and impressing everyone but surely they’ve got other 18, 19, 20-year-olds who are further ahead in their development and could have got on the bench.
“I probably think it’s trying to keep a young superstar happy which is what managers do, I get that, but I would be more concerned with what that can do.
“You can elevate a 15 or 16-year-old to a position that becomes very difficult for them to cope with mentally because they’re already becoming a superstar. I imagine his Instagram went up by about 300,000 followers in a day!
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“Very few players at 17, let alone 15, burst onto the Premier League scene and do what Wayne Rooney or Michael Owen did.
“I think that you have to be really careful because you’re putting them in a position where if he comes on as a sub a few times for Arsenal, he’s going to become famous overnight.
“His lifestyle is going to change, rather than him just focusing on his football, he’s going to have to focus on something else.
“Arteta and the Arsenal fans might come back and say that he’s ready, but I’m not sure that anybody is ready at 15, to be honest with you.
“I’m pleased for him and his family because it’s a phenomenal record that he’s just broken and hopefully he does go on to great things, but it might be something that with hindsight Arteta might not have done.”
Rooney made his debut for Everton at the age of 16 and announced himself in style with a stunning winner against Arsenal in 2002, before going on to make 764 first team appearances and becoming Manchester United and England’s all-time top scorer.
Owen, meanwhile was 17, when he emerged on the scene at Liverpool in 1997 and went on to score 223 senior goals with clubs that also included Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United.
The decisions to hand Rooney and Owen their debuts at a young age certainly proved to be the right one and according to current Everton player Andros Townsend, Arteta will have thought the decision through before handing the youngster his debut.
Townsend told talkSPORT Breakfast: “It can be easy to get carried away and caught up in a life that you aren’t ready for yet but Mikel Arteta, he’s not silly, he’s very smart and knows what he’s doing.
“He’s calculated. He wouldn’t have thrown that youngster in on a whim because they were winning and he wanted to give him his debut. He would have analysed his character, analysed if he was ready, can he handle it mentally? Does he have the right family around him? Does he have the right support?
“I think that on this occasion you’ve got to trust Mikel Arteta and his decision to give this kid his debut at 15 and trust the fact that A) he can handle it and B) the club will support him, nurture him and give him more opportunities off the back of it.
“On this occasion I think I have to agree with Mikel Arteta.”