By George Overhill

19th Sep, 2022 | 9:00am

View: Top 10 Premier League youngest show Arsenal teen Ethan Nwaneri must not be overwhelmed by hype

That Arsenal teenager Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest Premier League player ever when he came on as a substitute in their win at Brentford was always going to draw attention.

But while FIFA and Football Manager have contributed to the idea that players automatically develop upwards until the age of about 23 that is not actually how it works.

A look at the list of the top 10 youngest players in Premier League history [FourFourTwo], of which the 15-year-old Gunner is now top, shows that it is far more miss than hit.

Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, and arguably even Wayne Rooney are three high-profile names not on the list who are viewed as let-downs in some quarters because their potential as youngsters was not matched as adults despite top level careers.

And the same could be said of Nwaneri’s Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard, who was expected to be a world-beater when he became a full international at 15 and signed for Real Madrid at 16.

It has taken the Norwegian a number of years, and an exit from the Bernabeu, to start to fulfil that potential, and even then it is unlikely he will ever meet the wild expectations that were envisaged back in 2015.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

At 15 years and 181 days, midfielder Nwaneri may go on to become a leading player in world football, or he could turn out to be a serviceable lower-league operator, or he may be out of the game before he is 25.

Thrust into the limelight before he has even finished school, so much can happen both within football and within his personal life before we will know what his career will look like.

Of the top 10 list, only Aaron Lennon at number five had a long career at the top level, with the now 35-year-old Burnley winger earning 21 England caps and making 416 Premier League appearances with Leeds, Tottenham, Everton and the Clarets.

Liverpool midfielder Harvey Elliott, second on the list, appears to be heading that way with the dual distinction of being an increasingly regular performer for Liverpool and overcoming a serious injury, but at 19 and with 29 appearances so far for Jurgen Klopp’s side he could still easily become another Wilshere.

Doncaster manager Gary McSheffrey, joint-seventh on the list, made a long career in the second tier with Coventry, Birmingham and Scunthorpe, among others, but only made 40 appearances in the top flight during that time.

Elsewhere on the list, then-Fulham defender Matthew Briggs has bounced around the lower leagues since his 2007 debut as a 16-year-old, Izzy Brown’s loan West Brom appearance got him signed by Chelsea where he made one more before getting lost in their loan system and is currently without a club at 25, and Everton’s youngest Jose Baxter had a decent run in League One with Oldham and Sheffield United but retired last year at 29.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy broke through for Aston Villa seven years ago but is now in League Two with Swindon after a stint playing in Cyprus, and Jack Robinson became Liverpool’s youngest ever under Rafael Benitez but has primarily been a Championship player with Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United, QPR, Huddersfield and Blackpool.

And Reece Oxford was expected to be a Premier League star as soon as he made a strong debut to help West Ham go to Arsenal and win 2-0 on the opening day of the 2015/16 season, but he only made seven more brief appearances in the top flight for the Hammers before various loans and is now, still only 23, a regular in the Bundesliga for Augsburg.

It should be emphasised that forging a career in professional football at any level is a major achievement considering the odds of not making it.

Under Mikel Arteta Nwaneri is probably in one of the better environments to improve his chances of doing so at the Emirates, but with so many moving parts in a player’s life at that age it is far from a foregone conclusion, as the rest of the top 10 illustrates.

“And he’s only going to get better,” is a favourite platitude of pundits but is completely untrue because any player could just as easily stay on the same level or get worse.

So while the temptation might be to assume that if Nwaneri is good enough to crack the Arsenal first team at 15 he will be a global superstar in 10 years, it is unfair to expect that of him.

It is likely going to be multiple seasons before it is even possible to gauge him properly so until then it is will only be detrimental to saddle him with hype.

In other Arsenal news, Mykhalo Mudryk admits he couldn’t say know to the Gunners.