There’s only one place to start this morning and that’s the news that Emile Smith Rowe has signed a new five-year deal with the club.
It seems almost reductive to say that this is good news, but it is very obvious, and as a fan base looking for any sign that things are going in the right direction, this is certainly one of them. The truth is, it’s one of those situations where, if we hadn’t made it, we might as well have sold the stadium, packed up and gone home, but The Smith is here and he’ll be around for a few more years.
Do I even have to talk about why? It goes without saying, but he’s a hugely talented player who brings a lot to the team and his introduction towards the end of 2020 helped make the second half of last season a lot better than the first. At 20, he’s barely scratched the surface of his potential, and as a graduate of the academy he’s essentially a £ 40 million signature from within.
About the new deal, he said:
I feel like I didn’t really have to think about it much, you know. I’ve been in the club since I was 10 so it was all about keeping this club going, so like I said, I’m really happy.
And when he took number 10 and followed in illustrious footsteps like Dennis Bergkamp, Paul Merson and Jack Wilshere, he said:
Everyone knows that number 10 is a great shirt, and it is definitely a great position too. So I’m humming to be honest. When I was younger I saw Dennis Bergkamp, and when I was walking through the academy Mesut Özil was also here and the opportunity to train with him and also to play with him was amazing. I just want to keep working hard and hope that I can play like them and repeat what they did.
While Mikel Arteta said:
As we all saw last season, Emile is a smart player with great skills. His sharp corners and his extraordinary vision have already made him a key player for us. His attitude and willingness to learn are also very impressive. Kudos to our team at our academy for providing Emile with a great education and doing an excellent job to support his development through the age groups.
When you start thinking about the future, Smith Rowe, 20; Saka (19): Martinelli (20); Tierney (24); Balogun (20); Sambi (21); Matured with high quality experiences like Aubameyang, Pepe and Partey, it looks pretty exciting. Add another 23-year-old Ben White and you can see what Arsenal are trying to do. As I said the other day, we can’t say the plan will work, but there is clearly a plan, rather than a cadre building and recruiting approach. That alone is positive.
The other thing that is exciting about Smith Rowe, securing his future and giving him the number 10, is that his style of play is so positive that he has to influence the team’s style to some extent. This is a young man who – if you were to go back in time and include him on one of Arsene Wenger’s most exciting teams – wouldn’t look out of place. He can play wide on both sides or in the middle; he has a deceptive pace; he first thought is forward; it can burst between the lines; he can create and score.
This is a player that you give a degree of freedom to express their talent so that they can help the team. My biggest hope for Mikel Arteta is that the kind of football we’ve played for the most part during his tenure is at least partly down to circumstances: dictated by the players available and the almost unique situations he faces as a rookie manager last 18 months. I’ve said it before but I just can’t believe that a coach who grew up at Barcelona, played under Arsene and worked with Pep Guardiola doesn’t want MORE attack threats from his team.
So when you go all-in at Smith Rowe it means you’re committed to who he is as a player, not just what he can bring to the team as a player. What our new number 10 says about what the manager wants from him suggests an emphasis on his performance:
The coach always wants me to score more goals, I think that’s important for the position I’m playing in. So I just want to try to shoot and score more goals for the team. I think this will help us a lot so I will focus on that in training as well.
He met regularly at the youth level; he met Emery under Unai a few years ago in the preseason; he scored in the early stages of his Arsenal Europa League career; so he can do it. However, sometimes it takes a while for a player to find their shooting beats in the Premier League. You think of someone like Cesc who didn’t become a regular goalscorer until his twenties, so it’s all there before Smith Rowe. To be successful, this team needs more players to rely on for a certain number of goals each season, and the number 10 at Arsenal should fill in with more than a handful every campaign. Let’s hope he can.
But leave it there for now, let the dust sink in and see how the season goes for him, confident that his future – at least for now – lies in north London. I don’t think that changes our need for a commitment in attacking midfield either, by the way, we’d be stupid to put all that burden / responsibility on Smith Rowe. Not to mention the impact it would have if he was injured / banned, but now that he’s settled in and ready to go, maybe we can play the slightly longer game and go to the end of the time window for the player we really are want. Whoever that is!
Right, there’s a brand new three-guest Arsecast downstairs for your listening pleasure. All the links to listen / subscribe to are there. Enjoy the show.