Wright admits he was wrong about ‘tempo-setting’ Arsenal star; reveals ‘pride’ over Nwaneri

·3-min read
Ian Wright during ITV coverage Credit: PA Images
Ian Wright during ITV coverage Credit: PA Images

Ian Wright has revealed his “pride” at 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri making his Arsenal debut and was full of praise for one Gunners star having been “one of his staunchest critics”.

Arsenal claimed their sixth win of the season with an impressive 3-0 victory over Brentford on Sunday, with William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus and Fabio Vieira on the scoresheet.

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Mikel Arteta’s side remain top of the table and Wright believes their flying start to the Premier League season is thanks in no small part to the displays of Granit Xhaka, who provided a brilliant cross for Jesus’ goal at Brentford.

Wright told BBC’s Match of the Day: “For me, Granit Xhaka is a player that we’re finally see play like he does for Switzerland.

“He’s playing in a position that suits him, playing more offensively. He’s playing with real authority and confidence.

“Lately he’s been able to find space and from there he can be really dangerous because, for me, he’s got easily one of the best left-foots in the Premier League.

“It’s a great cross for the Jesus goal, it’s fantastic. He can also do the defensive stuff, he gets back and get his foot in there.

“He set the tempo for Arsenal off the ball. I’m really pleased for him because I was one of his staunchest critics. But now we’re seeing the best of Granit Xhaka.”

Nwaneri became the youngest player in Premier League history when he came on for a brief cameo, as the 15-year-old broke the record previously held by Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott.

“I’m so proud of that for Arsenal,” Wright added. “To get in the team at that stage, some people might think it’s a stunt, but those people – Mikel, Per, Edu – are not putting him in there for a joke.

“They’re not going to bring people in just for the sake of it. They think very highly of him, he was playing for the U18s when he was 14.

“What I think this does is sent a massive message to the other academy players and shows them they all have a chance of playing in that first team.”

On Nwaneri’s debut, Arteta said after the game: “It was a feeling that I had yesterday, I don’t know why.

“The first day I met him I looked him in his eyes and everyone was telling me about him, Per was telling me about him, and because of the injuries we only have 12 or 13 senior players yesterday to put in the squad and we decided to bring him, and that’s it.

“It’s one step, one experience, so enjoy it and congratulations! It’s just one step and all the steps in your career are not forward and you have to know that.

“You can go forward then backwards and then forwards. You fall, you go back – that’s, unfortunately, this industry and the football career of any player.”

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