Mikel Arteta has called on Emile Smith Rowe to do more while defending Willian despite the latter having a terrible season.
Emile Smith Rowe scored his first Premier League goal on Sunday against West Brom while Willian finally scored for Arsenal after stinking up the entire season.
Which one deserves praise from the manager and which one needs put in his place?
You would think Arteta would be keen to big up Smith Rowe. The 20-year-old has been integral to what little good we have seen this season while Willian, his far more experienced senior, has generally been involved in all that stank.
It was surprising, then, to read Arteta’s post-match comments about the pair.
On Smith Rowe, when asked if that was the first of many Premier League goals to come from the youngster, Arteta said, “He’s having an incredible season ever since he started to play in December. But he’s scoring his first Premier League goal. An incredible season for a No 10 of Arsenal means he needs to score 15 goals and give 10 assists.
“Then you are right up there with the top guys in Europe and in the league. He’s got the ability to do it but he hasn’t done it. We need to stay calm with him, give him the right support and step by step I think he will be getting there.”
That, on it’s own, seemed a bit rough to me even though the points Arteta makes are valid. Did he have to make them? Especially the ‘he hasn’t done it’ part. When compared to what Arteta then said about Willian, it seems even worse.
“Willian has done it in the past,” Arteta said, “that’s the big difference. He’s done it for many years and has achieved everything in the game. Somehow this season we haven’t managed to get the best out of him. He had some spells where we could see highlights of things he can do and today was a good example of that.”
If I’m honest, I don’t overly give two s**ts what Willian has done in the past, he has been awful this season and, despite his Premier League experience (he played 339 times for Chelsea), has taken until May to register his first goal for the club.
It is certainly a bold strategy from Arteta, who continues to favour Willian for reasons absolutely nobody can work out. Quite what response he thinks this sort of move will elicit from Smith Rowe is anyone’s guess.
Personally, a good manager should not be praising the senior man, who has been rubbish all season, at the expense of the kid at the start of his career who has saved his arse more than the man who has ‘achieved everything’ (including united the Arsenal fanbase against him).