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’s seems almost reductive to say this is good news, but very obviously it is, and as a fanbase looking for every sign that things are going in the right direction, this is certainly one of those. In truth, it’s one of those situations that if we hadn’t been able to manage, we might as well have just sold the stadium, packed up and gone home, but The Smith is here and he’s here to stay for some years yet.
Do I even need to talk about why? It kinda 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 much better than the first. At 20 he’s barely scratched the surface of the potential he has, and as an Academy graduate, he’s essentially a £40m signing from within.
Speaking about the new deal, he said:
I feel like I didn’t really have to think about it too much you know. I’ve been at the club since I was 10 years old, so for me it was just about carrying on at this club, so like I said, I’m really happy.
And on taking the number 10, following in illustrious footsteps like Dennis Bergkamp, Paul Merson and Jack Wilshere, he said:
Everyone knows that No 10 is a big shirt and it is definitely a big position as well. So I’m buzzing to be honest. When I was younger I used to watch Dennis Bergkamp, and when I was going through the academy Mesut Ozil was here as well and getting the opportunity to train with him and play with him as well was unbelievable. I just want to keep working hard and hopefully I can play like them and replicate what they’ve done.
While Mikel Arteta said:
As we all saw last season, Emile is an intelligent player with excellent ability. His sharpness on the turn and exceptional vision have already made him a key player for us. His attitude and willingness to learn have also been very impressive. Huge credit to our team in our academy who have given Emile a great education and have worked superbly to help with his development through the age groups.
When you start to think about the future, Smith Rowe (20); Saka (19): Martinelli (20); Tierney (24); Balogun (20); Sambi (21); fleshed out with quality experience like Aubameyang, Pepe and Partey, it starts to look pretty exciting. Add a 23 year old Ben White to that too, and you can see what it is Arsenal are trying to do. As I said the other day, we can’t say that the plan will work, but there is very obviously a plan, rather than a make-it-up-as-go-along approach to squad building and recruitment. That alone is positive.
The other thing that is exciting about Smith Rowe, securing his future, and giving him the number 10 shirt, is that is his style of play is so positive that it has to inform the style of the team to an extent. This is a young man who – if you went back in time and dropped him into any of Arsene Wenger’s most exciting teams – wouldn’t look out of place. He can play wide on either side or central; he has deceptive pace; he first thought is forward; he can burst between the lines; he can create and score.
This is a player you have give some measure of freedom to express his talent, to allow him to help the team. My overriding hope for Mikel Arteta is that the kind of football we’ve played for the most part under his tenure is, at least in part, due to circumstance: dictated by the players available and the almost unique situations he’s had to face as a rookie manager over the last 18 months. I’ve said it before, but I just can’t believe a manager who grew up at Barcelona, played under Arsene, and worked alongside Pep Guardiola, doesn’t want MORE attacking threat from his team.
So, when you go all-in on Smith Rowe, it suggests a commitment to what he is as a player, not simply what he as a player can bring to the team. What our new number 10 said about what the manager wants from him suggests some emphasis on his output:
The manager always wants me to score more goals, I think that’s important for the position that I play in. So I just want to try and score and create more goals for the team, I think that will help us majorly, so that’s what I’m going to focus on in training as well.
He scored regularly at youth level; he scored in pre-season a few years ago under Unai Emery; he scored in the Europa League in the nascent stages of his Arsenal career; so he can do it. Sometimes, though, it takes a player a little while to find their shooting beats in the Premier League. You think of someone like Cesc who only became a regular goalscorer in his 20s, so it’s all there in front of Smith Rowe. To be successful this team needs more players who you can count on for a certain number of goals each season, and the number 10 at Arsenal should be chipping in with more than a handful each campaign. Let’s hope he can do that.
For now though, let’s leave it there, let the dust settle, and see how the season goes for him, confident that his future – for now at least – lies in North London. I don’t think this changes our need for an attacking midfield signing either, by the way, we’d be foolish to place all that burden/responsibility on Smith Rowe. Not to mention the impact it would have if he got injured/suspended, but given that he’s settled and ready to go, we can, perhaps, play the slightly longer game and go until the end of the window for the player we really want. Whoever that is!
Right, for your aural pleasure there’s a brand new Arsecast below with three guests. All the links you need to listen/subscribe are there. Enjoy the show.