How Arsenal’s decision on Emile Smith Rowe could affect Mikel Arteta’s transfer plans amid £80m dilemma
Since his return from a long-term injury layoff earlier this season, the Hale Ender has struggled to find game time.
Emile Smith Rowe has had a difficult season thus far. Last season, Hale Ender was Arsenal’s second highest scorer behind Bukayo Saka, but he has yet to start a single game this season.
This has been largely due to a decision to have groin surgery. There was the option of continuing to play and risking the issue that had plagued Smith Rowe for the back half of last season resurfacing, but after some deliberation, it was decided that surgery was the best option to try to solve the problem once and for all.
This sidelined the 22-year-old for four months, and just three weeks after making a brief comeback in matches against Oxford United and Tottenham Hotspur in January, he suffered a setback that forced him to miss another three weeks. He returned to the bench for the 4-2 win over Aston Villa in February, but by then, Leandro Trossard had arrived from Brighton, and Fabio Vieira has begun to earn more game time in both the Premier League and the Europa League.
Many have questioned Smith Rowe’s future at Arsenal as a result of this. With Trossard forming a promising partnership with Gabriel Martinelli in the forward areas, and Vieira taking the minutes that he could have had in one of the eight positions, it appears that game time for the Hale Ender will be difficult to come by between now and the end of the season. Smith Rowe, on the other hand, is still very much a part of Arteta’s plans.
“He knows how much we love him and how much we missed him and how much we need his qualities,” the Spaniard said earlier this month. “Now he needs to prove it. He needs to prove how much he wants to win and how much he’s going to contribute to this team. To be better and to win and he’s gonna have to show that to get on the team.”
Considering this, Smith Rowe may have been affected negatively due to Arsenal’s early elimination from the Europa League. The team did not want to rush the 22-year-old back into playing after his long absence, but before their loss in the penalty shootout against Sporting CP, Arteta hinted that he would start using Smith Rowe more frequently.
“We have to manage his load but for sure, he’s in a position where we can use him in the team at any moment,” the Spaniard said when asked about Smith Rowe’s comeback. “Then it’s about how he’s coping with the game in general and whether to take him off or use for the last few minutes.”
Despite showing promise, Smith Rowe’s role in Arsenal’s future plans may be uncertain. With the return of Gabriel Jesus and the club’s reported interest in signing Declan Rice, it could be difficult for the 22-year-old to secure playing time. Additionally, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has expressed his desire to build a squad capable of competing in both the Premier League and Champions League, which may require tough decisions regarding Smith Rowe and other players. However, the success of previously overlooked players such as Reiss Nelson provides hope for Smith Rowe’s future at the club.