Mikel Arteta liked what he saw from Emile Smith Rowe again on Thursday, despite admitting the 20-year-old wasn’t in his best position.
Emile Smith Rowe has been in strong form since returning from injury. Whilst building his fitness with the u23s, the midfielder scored three goals in four appearances, but he’s successfully transferring that form to the first team now.
In his three Europa League group stage showings, Smith Rowe scored one and assisted two. Given he only started one of those three games, it’s a goal or assist every 40 minutes for him so far this season.
Mikel Arteta is impressed with the youngster’s performances, particularly given the obstacles he’s had to overcome.
“He hasn’t played many games and he’s playing in a position that doesn’t suit him perfectly with his qualities,” Arteta said. “But you can see that every time he is around the ball, something is going to happen.
“He has a lot of creativity, he’s a player who has the quality to receive the ball and do things in areas where there are high-value spaces after it gets opened. He’s a threat and I’m really happy with his performance.”
Arteta wouldn’t be drawn on whether the display put Smith Rowe in contention to start on Sunday, saying only that “there’s a chance for everybody”. But he has to be thinking about trying the midfielder in league games now.
Arsenal are struggling creatively in the league, whilst they have a player averaging three chances per 90 in the Europa League. Smith Rowe is ready-made for the midfield position Arteta currently has to use Alexandre Lacazette in, for lack of a good senior alternative.
Bringing Nicolas Pepe back to the starting team would help too, given he was Arsenal’s top creator last season, though he needs to complete his red-card suspension first.
The point being that Arteta has options, he doesn’t need to start the same players every game.