Thursday, July 18, 2024

Nwaneri signs a professional contract, now the challenge begins …

Morning.

As we wait for Mikel Arteta’s press conference later on, the build-up to Sunday’s game starts in earnest now. It will be somewhat all encompassing this weekend. Whatever else you’re doing, however distracted you get, your mind is always going to swerve back to 4.30 on Sunday afternoon (or your equivalent local time).

My press conference predictions. When it comes to injuries, Mikel Arteta will say something along the lines of ‘We have a few doubts, but we’ll have to wait and see how they are tomorrow. We have another session so hopefully they can make it.’

There will be questions about Mikel and Pep, and maybe Pep and Mikel, and despite the fact he’s been asked how much he learned working alongside Guardiola, he will be asked how much he learned working alongside Guardiola. Beyond that, it will be about the ‘beautiful challenge’ we face in Sunday’s game and how good Man City are, but let’s see what emerges.

Meanwhile, away from all that, Ethan Nwaneri turned 17 last week, thus enabling him to put pen to paper on his first professional contract with the club. It wasn’t always a sure thing, because he had offers from elsewhere. It’s quite interesting to note that recent reports have suggested Arsenal are going to spend a bit of money recruiting young players from other clubs. We’ve already signed defender Brayden Clarke from Wolves, and 15 year old Ceadach O’Neill, a Northern Ireland youth international who has come in from Linfield.

But this is essentially what other clubs tried to do with Nwaneri, not least Man City who have been operating in this way for some time, and have deep pockets to incentivise players and, crucially, parents. Nwaneri’s Arsenal debut as a 15 year old at the end of a 3-0 win over Brentford in 2022 was certainly tactical in part from the club. He might have been on the bench because of some injuries, but it was also a way of convincing him the pathway was there. He got some playing time again at the end of the 6-0 win over West Ham in February, and while I don’t expect to see much more of him this season given the situation we find ourselves in, he’s obviously someone to keep an eye on.

This summer, for example, might well be an opportunity for him and some other younger players. With international tournaments taking place, pre-season squads are likely to be bolstered by Academy talent, and he’s one of the shining lights of ours, so expect to see him on the US Tour, and who knows after that?!

On signing his deal, he said:

I’m delighted to have finally got to this stage after all the hard work over so many years. It’s a proud moment for me and my family to finally be here, so I’m happy and ready to keep working.

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.

The reality for young players at Arsenal now is that to get into this team, you need to be a bit special. That is what happens when the level is raised and you’re competing for the title. When you look at how someone as talented as Emile Smith Rowe has fallen by the wayside, it tells you plenty about the challenge that lies ahead for Nwaneri and his generation, but that’s also how it should be. The cream should rise to the top, so fingers crossed he can fulfill all that potential and follow in the footsteps of Bukayo Saka who made the same breakthrough but firmly established himself in the way that some of the others weren’t quite able to do.

For some extra reading this morning, Andrew Allen has a piece on the continued detention of Arsenal fan Evan Gershkovich in Russia. He has been held for a year now, with no end in sight, so please have a read.

We’ll have press conference coverage over on Arseblog News, and for now I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast looking ahead to Sunday’s big game with Andrew and Lewis. Happy listening.

PS – I forgot to announce the winners of the Ben White t-shirt competition, so will do so on Monday’s Arsecast Extra!

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