Danny Murphy has hit out at Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and accused him of mismanaging Ethan Nwaneri.
The midfielder became the youngest ever Premier League player aged 15 years and 181 days when he came off the bench in stoppage time of the Gunners’ 3-0 win at Brentford on Sunday.
Arsenal boss Arteta insisted Nwaneri’s appearance was based on merit but speaking on talkSPORT, Sportsmail columnist Murphy believes the England U17 international would have benefited from not being thrust into the limelight.
He also believes Arteta was simply trying to keep ‘super-talent’ Nwaneri happy, with the youngster having his pick of clubs available to him with Man City and Liverpool among the clubs interested in him.
‘I am not convinced it is the best move for a young player, I am really not,’ Murphy said.
‘I have seen superstars come on the scene at a young age and thrive and go on and carry on, but there has also been a lot who have fallen by the wayside.
‘He is obviously a super-talent, doing well in training and impressing everybody, but surely they have got other 18, 19 and 20-year-olds who are further ahead in their development who could have gone on the bench.
‘I think he is probably trying to keep a young superstar happy.’
However, Spaniard Arteta revealed he was convinced by a ‘gut feeling’ to play Nwaneri if the situation was appropriate.
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.
‘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.
‘I told him 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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
Nwaneri had been expected to spend the season with Arsenal Under 18s but he was quickly promoted to the Under 21s following his impressive performances.
He has already picked up four goals and four assists for both the Under 18s and 21s so far this season – catching the eye of Arteta.