Arsenal were cruising to a 3-0 win over local rivals Brentford when Mikel Arteta made the strange decision to give a debut to the 15 year-old midfielder Ethan Nwaneri in added time. It may have seemed like a futile gesture at the time, but Arteta said he just had a “gut feeling” that it was the right thing to do.
But Per Mertesacker, who is the head of the youth development team, thinks that it has made him proud and given a great boost to all the young players of all ages, seeing that their dreams could also come true.
“Mikel gave everyone a powerful message,” he said on Arsenal.com. “I have to say how much it trickled down. I’ve seen videos of the under-9, under-10 squads cheering Ethan on at Hale End when he came on. Players that would start the same journey as he did, in the grassroots academy, were cheering him on. So all of a sudden he has been escalated to be a role model and a positive influence for young players.
“It’s just brilliant to see, that’s what we are proud of, that we can show progression, that we can show pathways. It was a very proud moment, first of all for himself and his family. It’s a reflection as well of what this club is about, what the academy is about.
“A lot of youngsters entering the academy have the dream of playing for Arsenal Football Club and he made that dream come true. It was a proud moment for us as an academy.”
The Gunners are definitely aiming to invest in young players for the future and with Nketiah, Saka and Reiss Nelson all on this season’s squad list, the youngsters can see that they too can fuflfil the dream of playing for the Arsenal first team if they carry on working hard and progressing.
May we see many more youngsters making their debuts in the coming years….
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