Ethan Nwaneri: World Cup winner sees youngster thriving at Arsenal after signing pro contract

Highly-rated England-born midfielder of Nigerian descent Ethan Nwaneri has been backed to blossom into a first-team star at Arsenal.

Per Mertesacker, a FIFA World Cup winner with Germany and currently Arsenal’s Academy Manager, believes Nwaneri has everything it takes to become a cult hero at the Emirates.

The 17-year-old signed his first professional contract with the Gunners this week, committing his future to Mikel Arteta’s side for the next few years.

Nwaneri joined the North London outfit as a nine-year-old and has spent the last eight years developing at the club’s academy. He has also been a key player in England’s youth teams, having featured for the U16 and U17 sides.

Mertesacker backs Nwaneri to thrive at Arsenal
Photo by Icon Sport

The talented playmaker is currently enjoying a productive campaign with Arsenal’s academy, where he has impressively scored 14 goals in 14 matches in all competitions this season.

Mertesacker backs Nwaneri to thrive at Arsenal

Nwaneri has already been regularly training with Arsenal’s first team after catching the eye of manager Mikel Arteta. The teenager became the youngest player to ever feature in the Premier League when he came on as a second-half substitute in the Gunners’ 3-0 win over Brentford in September 2022 aged 15 years and 181 days.

He was also a key member of Arsenal’s U18 side that reached the FA Youth Cup final last season, while also featuring in the Gunners’ 6-0 thrashing of West Ham United in the Premier League in February.

Nwaneri’s rise has greatly impressed Mertesacker and the Arsenal Academy Manager has backed the teenager to thrive at the club after signing a professional contract.

“We are extremely proud of Ethan and his journey, from pre-academy to Hale End, then a seamless transition to Sobha Realty Training Centre and then making his first team debut. Ethan’s journey now continues, and we will all be there alongside him to support his development,” Mertesacker told

“Ethan has a strong ability to master the ball, dominate possession and is really effective in the final third, which fits into our playing style at Arsenal Football Club. He is someone that will thrive on and off the pitch as a strong young Gunner and we look forward to working with him during his ongoing development in the years to come.”

Ethan Nwaneri targets first-team opportunities at Arsenal

Meanwhile, Nwaneri has expressed his delight after putting pen to paper on a professional contract at Arsenal, insisting he now aims to break into the first team.

Nwaneri said he was grateful to all the managers who have helped him through this journey and given him opportunities to shine, while describing his first professional contract with Arsenal as a dream come true.

Having been at the club’s academy since 2015 and risen through the ranks, the teenager said he’s now looking forward to learning from the experienced players and will keep pushing to earn more first-team minutes under Arteta.

“All the people around me have helped me get better as a person, and definitely helped me develop as a player on the pitch. The opportunities from Mikel, all the under-21 coaches, under-18s coaches – they’ve all helped me develop so I’m grateful to them,” he said.

“I want to keep pushing towards the first-team, gain as much experience as I can from the players in the first-team, and score as many goals as I can in whatever game I’m playing in and just keep pushing. I’m just going to keep working and do my best when I get opportunities given.”

Despite playing for England at youth level, Nwaneri is still eligible to play for Nigeria as he hasn’t yet been capped by the Three Lions.

Ethan Nwaneri: World Cup winner sees youngster thriving at Arsenal after signing pro contract
Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an Asante Kotoko fan and a passionate sports journalist with a little over five years of experience writing about African football.

His articles and features have been published in renowned news media like The Guardian, DW, Al Jazeera and Sportskeeda. His bylines can also be found in the UK journals World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.