Arsenal star Emile Smith Rowe enjoyed his breakaway season last year with 10 Premier League goals from the left and calls for England. He has yet to start a game this season.
It’s concerning for Gooners who may have wondered if the 22-year-old could take his game to another level this season. Also with the signing of Leandro Trossard, his place on the left wing of Mikel Arteta’s side seems unwinnable, with Gabriel Martinelli one of the first names on the team sheet and a Prem-proven option as a substitute.
But despite the uncertainty for ESR going forward, his place in the team may be clearer than ever – and he could be a missing piece after all.
FourFourTwo asked Arsenal star Emile Smith Rowe where he preferred to play at the start of the season…
“I think you just have to adapt,” Arsenal’s number 10 said at the time FFT asked him his favorite role on the field. “I don’t think I have a preferred position. We all train in different positions, I train as a false nine, left winger or midfield. But Mikel is so good, he gives us all the information to help us get better.” what is good. I don’t really know where I am best.’
It was clear to see where he was best when Arteta dropped him for the first time in the heat of the Premier League against Chelsea on Boxing Day 2021. Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation featured graduate Hale End as a playmaker behind the No. 9 for much of his first season, but over time he has moved to the left side for the Gunners. He played there most often last season.
But the plan is clearer since Martinelli took that left berth from him. Against Bournemouth at the start of the season, Smith Rowe replaced captain Martin Odegaard as Arsenal semi-switched back to the 4-2-3-1, with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka forming more of a two-pivot midfield that looked fluid.
An injury disrupted Smith Rowe’s progress from then on against Oxford United (opens in new tab) in the FA Cup he made his return for the Gunners in a similar position.
The ultimate plan could see Smith Rowe in midfield
Arsenal have tried to use Emile Smith Rowe in midfield – viz at home in Brighton (opens in new tab) last season in a dull home defeat. However, a lot has changed since then.
Smith Rowe still has what it takes to make a good midfielder. His tight control is excellent, he drives forward with purpose, he can get into the penalty area late and his ball attacks are excellent. Stylistically, there are comparisons to Jamal Musiala at Bayern Munich.
And while it hasn’t been an experiment that has worked so far, Arsenal are a different beast now. Oleksandr Zinchenko has arrived to act as another possession midfielder for the Gunners, while Thomas Partey has risen to become arguably the most important defensive midfielder of any team in Europe. Watch Granit Xhaka this season (opens in new tab)roaming, creating a lot and scoring: that’s exactly the role for which ESR was born.
Could it actually equalize Arsenal? better with him in it? When Smith Rowe was an important number 10 for Arsenal, he drifted laterally and combined with Bukayo Saka on the right, while linking up with Martinelli on the left. Using him as an itinerant playmaker alongside Odegaard could well have a similar effect.
The best team in the league so far this season may have a secret weapon to improve them for the second half…
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