Ethan Nwaneri’s Premier League debut was labelled a PR stunt by former Chelsea footballer Jason Cundy.
In September Nwaneri became the Premier League's youngest-ever player at 15 years and 181 days when he came off the Arsenal bench for a brief cameo against Brentford.
The attacking midfielder, who only last season was playing under-16 football, spent three minutes on the pitch as the Gunners dispatched the Bees 3-0.
For reference - Nwaneri was born after the Emirates Stadium was built, while he was just 12 years old when the UK went into the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
The teenager has practically always played a year above his age group at Hale End, yet his rise in the past year has been nothing short of sensational. Last year he was a regular for the under-16s, while Nwaneri only made his under-18 debut in February.
Despite the 15-year-old’s undoubted talent, as well as the belief shown in him by the likes of Arteta, academy coach Per Mertesacker and Arsenal sporting director Edu Gaspar, Cundy has claimed Nwaneri’s debut was a PR stunt.
Speaking on the Highbury Squad YouTube channel, Jason Cundy said: “I think this was a PR stunt.
“I called it out at the time and I stand by it.
“To put a boy in that position, even Arteta has said he only saw him train two or three times, you don’t use a player in the Premier League if you’ve only seen them two or three times.”
Cundy then compared Nwaneri to Cesc Fabregas - one of the greatest midfielders of the last generation.
The 52-year-old said Nwaneri is not as good as the stratospheric level the Spaniard showed at the same age.
In turn, Cundy suggested that Nwaneri does not deserve the accolade of being the Premier League’s youngest player ever.
He said: “I felt it was a decision made about Arsenal and Arteta rather than looking after the kid. Basically what we’re saying is that this kid is better than Fabregas.
“We’re basically saying that, aren’t we? I think so because Fabregas didn’t make his debut at 15, Wilshere didn’t make his debut at 15, Saka didn’t.
“We’re putting him in a category here that can be quite dangerous.”
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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