With victory all but secured, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta gave the nod to the substitutes’ bench. Changes were afoot, history would be made.
In the 92nd minute, schoolboy Ethan Nwaneri replaced Fabio Vieira to become, aged 15 years and 181 days, the youngest player to play in an English Premier League match. He is also the first 15-year-old to feature in an EPL game.
Arsenal fans greeted the teenager’s appearance by chanting: “He’s going to school in the morning.”
The midfielder eclipsed the record set by Harvey Elliott, who now plays for Liverpool, when he appeared for Fulham aged 16 years and 30 days in 2019.
Nwaneri is an attacking midfielder who has impressed for the under 21s and was promoted to the Arsenal first team after the squad suffered a series of injuries. Such was the speed of his promotion, he does not yet have a profile on the first team page of the club’s official website.
Born in 2007, the midfielder wasn’t even alive when Arsenal moved to its new Emirates Stadium 16 years ago.
He made his under 18s debut aged 14 and scored. Last month, he scored for England’s under 17s after coming off the bench.
Arteta said after the match: “He has trained a couple of times with us and I had a feeling yesterday (Saturday) that if the opportunity came I would do it.
“I think it sends a strong message about who we are as a club. I told him he would be with us and he had to be ready. He is ready. When he went on I said: ‘Congratulations and enjoy it.’”
Former England captain Gary Lineker tweeted: “15 year old Ethan Nwaneri has come on for @Arsenal. Thankfully it’s an early kick off so he can get his homework done after the game.”
Arsenal returned to the top of the league with the 3-0 win over Brentford thanks to goals by William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus and Vieira.