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Mikel Arteta can save Arsenal millions by giving Ethan Nwaneri opportunity he deserves

Ethan Nwaneri celebrates scoring for England U17s at this week's U17 European Championships
-Credit: (Image: Piaras Ó Mídheach - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)


Arsenal are thought to be looking for a wide attacker rather than a centre-forward this summer.

That will come as a surprise to some fans, who feel the Gunners lack a natural goalscoring striker. Eddie Nketiah is expected to be let go this summer as the club battles Premier League spending rules.

Academy stars count as pure profit, in that they cost nothing to bring in. It’s why Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe could head out of the exit door too. Between them, they mustered just 13 goal contributions this season, nine of these coming through Nketiah.

The attacker scored just six goals all season, and three of them came against Sheffield United. If the academy product does leave, it is imagined that Arteta would search for a quick replacement.

Gabriel Jesus - eight goals this campaign - would be left as the only natural centre-forward, with Kai Havertz more deep-lying than a traditional number nine. For all the academy products that could be let go, one youth star could solve a problem for Arteta if he indeed does wish to bring in another wide player.

Ethan Nwaneri scored his 15th England under-17 goal in his 28th appearance during Thursday’s quarter-final penalty defeat to Italy at the age-group European Championships. His 16th-minute opener was his third goal of the tournament.

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It means he has recorded 25 goals in 31 games for club and country at youth level this season, an astonishing return for an attacking midfielder. Nwaneri can also play on the flank if needed.

The 17-year-old was played on the right wing during his 13 minutes for Arsenal’s first-team in the 6-0 February win over West Ham. Nwaneri became the youngest-ever player to feature in a top-flight game when he came on for a late cameo against Brentford in September 2022, aged 15 years and 181 days.

There has been a suggestion that Bukayo Saka, another academy product, needs a back-up on the right flank. Nwaneri is still so young and needs more experience before he can be considered Saka’s protegee.

But he can definitely grow towards that next year and first team exposure is vital for his growth. A second-choice behind Saka is not high up on the list of transfer tasks and perhaps Arsenal can afford to wait in order to solve that puzzle.

In due time, Nwaneri might be ready to step up on a full-time basis. But more first-team game time this season needs to be offered in order for this to happen.

Nwaneri is getting too good for his colleagues at his current level. The only way is up for the youngster, it seems.