Football News

Mikel Arteta: Arsenal players were calling for Ethan Nwaneri to come on vs West Ham

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:58, 12 February 2024

Mikel Arteta has revealed that Arsenal’s substitutes were “whispering” for Ethan Nwaneri to come on in their 6-0 win over West Ham United at the weekend.

The Gunners have won their first four games of a league season for the first time since 1935, while also recording their joint-biggest margin of victory in an away game. It was the first time they had won an away league game by six goals since December 1935, when they beat Aston Villa 7-1 at Villa Park.

It was also Arsenal’s joint-biggest win in a league London derby, with all three finishing 6-0 to the Gunners. The sixth goal, scored by Declan Rice against his former club, came in the 65th minute and was followed by wholesale changes.

In the 67th minute, Mohamed Elneny, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah all came on, while 10 minutes later Nwaneri and Cedric Soares were brought on. Some fans may have been a bit annoyed with some of the changes, as Reuell Walters and Mauro Bandeira remained on the bench, while the likes of Elneny and Cedric came on despite not appearing to have long-term futures at Arsenal.

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It was Nwaneri’s second appearance for Arsenal’s first team, both of which have come in the Premier League. He made his debut in the competition last season, coming on in injury time of Arsenal’s 3-0 Premier League win over Brentford. That appearance made Nwaneri the youngest-ever Arsenal player in Premier League history. But he has been on the bench four times across all competitions this season.

In his 13 minutes on the pitch, Nwaneri had 20 touches of the ball and completed 15 of his 18 passes. He also made 10passes in the final third, created one chance, had one shot on target and won two of his three duels.

Arteta has previously spoken highly of Nwaneri — who turns 17 next month — comparing him to Jack Wilshere. “There’s something unique that he’s got that I really liked from the beginning, his ability to take the ball in tight areas and to escape a little bit like Jack Wilshere used to do,” he said last year.

“The personality he has, he trains with us like he trains with the under-18s or under-16s and I love that in a player. He’s got that bit between his teeth as well that he wants to show every single day how good he is and to impress people.

“When you have someone like that, you have to give him hope and as well it was a really important moment for us because we really wanted to keep him and I think it was a strange sign for him that this is his place for him to develop.”

And it appears that Nwaneri has made a name for himself among his Arsenal teammates. According to Arteta, it was Arsenal’s substitutes that were calling for Nwaneri to be brought on late in the win over West Ham.

“There is something that you have to earn in your team and that is the trust of your team-mates,” he told reporters.

“I had two things. One, the players on the bench whispering, ‘Bring Ethan in!’ – which is a great thing to hear.

“The other thing is for your team-mates to give you the ball all the time. If they do that, it’s because they really trust you and you only have to see how many times he was involved in that. So it’s a great sign.”

So, who was whispering? Fans wondering didn’t have to look far for the answer, with Aaron Ramsdale revealing it was Jorginho, in a comment on Nwaneri’s Instagram.