For a brief moment it looked like Ethan Nwaneri was about to make Premier League history and then sheepishly slip off quietly back to Arsenal’s dressing room.
But his teammates were not about to let his incredible moment, after becoming the league’s new youngest ever player aged 15 years and 181 days, pass without the fanfare it and he deserved.
Following his record-breaking injury-time cameo, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale beckoned Nwaneri – the first ever under-16 to play in the division – back as he headed for the tunnel.
Ethan Nwaneri became the first ever 15-year-old to play in the Premier League on Sunday
Aaron Ramsdale took Nwaneri over to the away end to take the acclaim of the Arsenal fans
Gabriel Martinelli also wanted Nwaneri to get a huge ovation from the Arsenal supporters
With his arm around Nwaneri’s shoulder, Ramsdale walked him towards the section of Arsenal fans so, as part of his day, he could sample the acclaim they receive following victory too as well as his first ever senior minutes.
Then an extra cheer went up after Ramsdale and then Gabriel Martinelli playfully pushed attacking midfielder Nwaneri further forward so he could be celebrated on his own.
Nwaneri earned his moment after training with Arsenal’s first team on Saturday and a brilliant start to the season with their academy, scoring four goals and setting up five more in just 10 games.
He made his under-18s debut aged 14 in May 2021, scoring against Reading, and his under-21 bow also well ahead of schedule earlier this month.
Mikel Arteta said: ‘It was a pure gut feeling. When I met him, when I look at him, I had that feeling. I really liked what I saw.
‘Per Mertesacker and the academy staff are giving me really good information, Edu as well. I met him, he’s trained a couple of times with us.
‘Yesterday he had to come because we have injuries, especially the injury of Martin (Odegaard), and then I had that feeling from yesterday that if the opportunity could come that I was going to do it and I just (did) it.
Mikel Arteta decided to bring Nwaneri on in the final stages of his side’s win against Brentford
Arteta said his ‘gut feeling’ told to him to name Nwaneri in his matchday squad on Sunday
‘I told him yesterday that he was going to be with us and that I want him to experience how it is to be in the hotel, to do a preparation of the game to be around the boys and that he had to be ready.
‘If you’re going to be on that bench you have to be ready. The boy just looks in your eyes and he’s ready. [When he was coming on I said] just congratulations and enjoy.’
Nwaneri’s eagerness to get involved in his few minutes on the pitch against Brentford was understandable and evident.
He only had one touch, which was loudly cheered by the away end, but his appearance was long enough to allow Arsenal fans to taunt their Brentford rivals about a 15 year-old playing against them and chant ‘he’s got school in the morning.’
When Nwaneri – so young he was born after the Emirates opened in 2006 and has to get ready in a separate changing room to his adult teammates – entered the fray a string of records tumbled.
He became Arsenal’s youngest ever Premier League player, a record held by Jack Wilshere (16 years and 256 days), and youngest every player in any competition.
Before Sunday that was Cesc Fabregas, who made his first team debut aged 16 years and 177 days. Not bad footsteps for Nwaneri to follow in at all.
Harvey Elliott was previously the Premier League’s youngest ever player aged 16 years and 30 days when he made his Fulham debut.
Nwaneri has made his Arsenal debut at a younger age than Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere
A pupil at St John’s Prep and Senior school, Enfield, Nwaneri is also the first player born in 2007 to feature in any of Europe’s top five leagues.
Arteta said: ‘All the decisions that we take and that I take are for the club. It’s not for me, it’s not for the player, it’s because we believe that he has a talent that has to be developed incredibly in the next two or three years.
‘We will see how we manage that but the boy will dictate. Normally it’s not us, normally the players tell you and demand of you how far you can go on that.’
With Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool on Nwaneri’s trail, handing him a place in the record books and a fast-tracked opportunity is a good way of showing him what may lie ahead at Arsenal.
Arteta said: ‘It sends a strong message about who we are as a club. That we want to give opportunities when there is talent, when there is personality and when there are players who love what they do so much and when they have no fear. The doors are open to explore where they can go.’