Per Mertesacker has explained why Arsenal sent Emile Smith Rowe on loan to RB Leipzig in January and implied there will be more of those kinds of moves in the coming years.
Before his loan transfer in January, Smith Rowe was having an encouraging season with Arsenal. In six competitive first-team matches, he scored three goals, and he brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the side.
Rather than keep him for the second half of the campaign, though, Arsenal decided to let the 18-year-old leave on loan to RB Leipzig. Academy manager Per Mertesacker explained why the club think that’s the best thing for him.
“I think for Smith Rowe that it is really important to see him go on loan for half a year to see him have this great experience in the Bundesliga,” Mertesacker said. “That sits right below the Premier League, in terms of tempo. I think to go from the Under-23s to Germany and then coming back to the Premier League gives a good step between.
“Leipzig are a team that play with tempo, a lot of pressing and they want to win the ball quickly back. We think that suits him quite well.”
Mertesacker then went on to expand on this idea of the step in between, emphasising that young players need something to help them bridge the gap between the comfort of youth football and the all-action Premier League.
“We see it as a big advantage for our youngsters to have a big step in between, where they will be regular first-team players,” the academy boss continued. “Sometimes you get stuck in the U23s, first-team training bubble, where you are with the first team which looks nice but you need the competition.
“If the U23s competition is not good enough for you, in terms of the tempo, then you need to have a different step in between when you are not quite ready to play regular Premier League football.
“It’s very individual so not every player will go to Germany. That’s not what I am saying. We need to pick the right clubs at the right time for these youngsters. It is something we are looking into deeper, as other clubs are doing this regularly and more often.”
So far, Smith Rowe hasn’t had much of a chance to prove that the club made the right decision. The youngster has been struggling with a groin strain for the last few months, and he’s yet to feature in Leipzig’s first-team squad. He’s back in training, at least, but clearly not quite fit just yet. Let’s hope he returns very soon.