Good morning, a short summary for you on Saturday.
There’s more about Emile Smith Rowe, who, as Mikel Arteta reveals, asked about the number 10 shirt. I like that. I’ve seen people talk about the weight of this jersey, the responsibilities that come with it and, most importantly, how it could be a burden right now at a club like Arsenal. We are at a stage where the number 10 needs to make a difference to us, but willingness to take on that role is something I find very encouraging.
Speaking to the official website about his desire to wear 10, Arteta said:
That shows you the ambition and the desire. I prefer players who ask more than they can possibly handle, but when they think they can do it, don’t set any limits on yourself. When he asked me and asked the club that he would like that , Okay, let’s go.
We talked a little, we talked about it and he knows the ramifications, but he feels ready to do it and when he is ready I will be right behind him trying to make it as comfortable as possible for him and as happy as possible to do what he wants to do.
For some it’s just a number and it doesn’t make a difference, but in football I think there are certain numbers that carry a certain weight. For example, what would you give for an outstanding number 9? The classic striker number. Alexandre Lacazette was better than some who came before him (Perez, Park, Baptista, Jeffers etc) and scored some excellent goals, but given the transfer fee and total net return, it wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped.
It may not mean that much elsewhere, but at Arsenal 14 holds a special place due to what Thierry Henry did in it. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wanted it for that reason, and while last season wasn’t up to date for a myriad of reasons we don’t need to go into it again, but his goalscoring record so far has been more than commensurate with the status that number has .
Then there are 10, the one most expected by everyone. It’s not just a number, it’s a position. Not just any position. You have to create, you have to score, you have to help your team control the game, be the fulcrum in the attacking third, and – not only that – you have to do it in a certain way. They can be good and functional, but you will disappoint people who want the 10 to play with style, panache, and panache. You’re the player who helps get the people off their seats, deploy the OOOOHs and AAAAHs while you’re doing something magical, and that’s because who came first.
In modern times, Smith Rowe follows in the footsteps of Dennis Bergkamp, one of the greatest players to ever play for the club; Jack Wilshere, long-awaited young talent, long-coming from the academy, and still the most natural talent until the advent of Smith Rowe / Saka; And while things didn’t turn out well for Mesut Özil, at his best he was a great creator with a gifted left foot ticking every box in number 10 on the checklist.
These players add even more weight to the number he wants, not to mention the fact that Smith Rowe made it on a team whose greatest weakness is lack of creativity and lack of goals. On the one hand, it may make it easier because the bar is set low and every improvement feels bigger; but on the other hand it comes with its own pressures. As early as 1995, Dennis Bergkamp was labeled a flop (admittedly by some who should have known better) when it took him some time to hit the bull’s eye after his move from Inter Milan.
Obviously the circumstances are different for Smith Rowe, but so is the media landscape, in which the discourse around the clock creates a merciless environment for players, managers and clubs. Everything is scrutinized, everything is a GIFable or potential meme, and there is a level of panditry based almost entirely on getting your voice to be heard in the crowd. To do this, you scream as loudly as you can and don’t say any sensible or intelligent things, you provoke, you arouse indignation, because that then leads to commitment. It’s sad that we live in a world where people are willing to incur abuse and disdain just to feel relevant in any way, but there we are.
Most of the time, these are things that should be on the sidelines of his football career for Smith Rowe. There will be people around him who will isolate him from some things, put him in perspective and focus him on the essentials, but as we saw at Bukayo Saka after the Euro 2020 final, there is always a way for that baddest elements if they really want to try. Unfortunately, football is only part of the reality these days.
To me, Smith Rowe looking for 10 can only be encouraging. He wants responsibility, he knows the weight of the number and he has the character to take it on. He could have chosen something different, something that came with a little less expectation, but he moved all-in on the strongest number of them all.
I can’t sit here this morning and predict that he will do it “justly”, but the mere fact that he asked gives him a much better chance.
Right, that’s your lot. Have a nice Saturday, more tomorrow.