Emile Smith-Rowe – An In Depth Look at the Youngster That Helped Arsenal Come Back to Life
By James Whiffing
Ever since Mikel Arteta started him against Chelsea, Emile Smith-Rowe has brought a breath of fresh air into this lacklustre Arsenal team, who were without a Premier League win for 7 games prior to his inclusion in the side. Since losing 4-1 to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup, the Gunners have won 4 on the bounce in all competitions, with Smith-Rowe’s impressive performances playing a big role in the club’s recent turn of form – but how did it all start for the Englishman?
Back in June 2018, Smith-Rowe was promoted from the under-23s to the first team squad by Unai Emery, who was undoubtedly encouraged by the youngster’s performances at academy level. He then went on to be frequently involved in Europa League matches in the 2018/19 season, where he would star for Arsenal, scoring two goals in three starts in the competition. The impressive displays in Europe earned the Hale End graduate a loan move to German side RB Leipzig, where he would try and gain some valuable experience in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues. Unfortunately, Smith-Rowe played just 29 minutes for the Bundesliga outfit following two injuries which saw him sidelined for just over three months.
The youngster then made a loan move to relegation-threatened Huddersfield Town, in the Championship. The Englishman played 1,176 minutes in the Championship for Huddersfield, where he scored twice and assisted two as well; one of his goals saved the club from relegation. Although these numbers seem low, the youngster who was just 19 at the time was one of the Terrier’s best players that campaign, with Huddersfield manager Danny Cowley heaping praise on the young talent in one of his press conferences, stating the following. “He looked a top player, didn’t he? He has that ability to find space; he could find space in a telephone box!"
After returning from his loan spell at Huddersfield Town, Smith-Rowe sadly picked up another injury which saw him out for over a month, although once he recovered, he came back with a bang. This campaign for Arsenal, the 20-year-old has played just 437 minutes, scoring twice and assisting four times in all competitions; that equates to a goal contribution every 73 minutes!
The industrious attacker is an energetic spark in midfield and he is constantly looking to take on his man; his 56% dribble success rate at Huddersfield exemplifies this. He completed 28 dribbles, which demonstrates that he is always looking to drive forwards and help speed up attacks with his dynamism. Smith-Rowe has also shown his creative skills, with the youngster averaging 0.79 assists per 90 as well as making 6 key passes, creating 8 chances and averaging an 82% pass completion rate, which shows that the 20-year-old can consistently find a teammate when trying to create chances/attacks.
Lastly, Smith Rowe’s work rate is something that is often overlooked and underrated. The Englishman has bags of energy and often presses the opposition when his team are out of possession, with his 16.4 pressures per 90 proving this. The Croydon-born midfielder often tracks back to help his side to defend, with the youngster making three clearances, two tackles and one interception since coming into the league side.
Before Smith-Rowe’s inclusion in the side, Mikel Arteta’s team had scored 13 goals in their last 14 Premier League games, whereas with his inclusion, the Gunners have scored 8 goals in 3 games; this highlights the highly rated youngster as the catalyst for Arsenal’s change in form. He is an impeccable temporary solution for Arteta’s creativity crisis.
Since bursting into the first team, Smith-Rowe has earned plenty of well-deserved praise, with players and fans naming him the ‘Croydon De Bruyne’ whilst others are linking him to Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil. The future looks bright for the 20-year-old and other young Arsenal stars such as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who have also been impressing as of late. As for Arteta, it seems that he has found a formula for success; recently, the young players have been exceptional and they could be the new foundation of Arteta’s plans in the months to come.