20-year-old Emile Smith Rowe's rapid acclimatization to top-level football could hardly have come at a better time for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal.
Persistent doubts had been raised around the Gunners' ability to create chances for their strikers, especially with playmaker Mesut Özil having been frozen out and now on the verge of a move to Fenerbache. Now, it seems as though Arsenal has found a solution to their creativity problems.
🔴 Hale End boy
Emile Smith Rowe, now affectionately known as "ESR" by Arsenal fans was born in Croydon on 28 July 2000. He is a youth product of the Hale End Academy which he joined when he was 10 years old. The midfielder made his first-team debut in September 2018.
🇪🇺 Europa League impact
Smith Rowe was a regular in Unai Emery's Europa League starting XIs in the preliminary phases of the 2018-19 season, where he made four appearances in the continental competition. He was utilized predominantly in wide attacking midfield roles and weighed in with two goals from his four starts.
🏔 Loan spells with RB Leipzig & Huddersfield
In January 2019, Smith Rowe moved to RB Leipzig to gain first-team experience in the Bundesliga for the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign. The move didn't pan out as planned with the Englishman being restricted to just three appearances because of a persistent groin injury. Still, it seems to have been a worthwhile stage in his development.
🗣"It is a dream to us"— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 18, 2021
Emile Smith Rowe speaks about the experience he had at Huddersfield & RB Leipzig and how good it is having the other youngsters in the team@emilesmithrowe pic.twitter.com/Nhu8jVGpGL
ESR joined Huddersfield Town in the Championship in January 2020 for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. He made 19 appearances in all for the Terriers, weighing in with two goals & three assists, donning 32 on the back of his jersey, the number he now wears at Arsenal.
🌟 Smith Rowe's Arsenal chance
After his stints in wider roles, Smith Rowe was deployed solely as a central attacking midfielder for Huddersfield and that's the role he now occupies for the Gunners. He made his first Premier League start of the season in a 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day, a result which seems to have breathed new life into the club's season. Smith Rowe assisted Bukayo Saka's goal against the Blues and then repeated the trick in a wonderful team move against West Brom two games later.
3 - Emile Smith Rowe has assisted three of Bukayo Saka's Premier League goals - they are the first English duo to combine for as many as three Premier League goals before either player has turned the age of 21. Future. #ARSNEW pic.twitter.com/1CrEzLhPPi— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 18, 2021
Smith Rowe was rested from the start for Arsenal's 3rd round FA Cup tie against Newcastle, but he came off the bench to break the deadlock with a composed half-volleyed finish in the 109th minute of a tight match that ended goalless after 90. The 20-year-old had been shown a red card in regulation time but the decision was overturned, much to the relief of the player and his manager.
Smith Rowe returned to the starting XI against Crystal Palace in the Premier League but he and his teammates couldn't break Roy Hodgson's team down in a cagey 0-0 draw at Emirates Stadium. Last night Smith Rowe impressed again against Newcastle, this time in the Premier League where the Gunners were too strong for the Magpies in the second half. Smith Rowe laid on Bukayo Saka's goal in an eventual 3-0 win.
Emile Smith Rowe vs. Newcastlepic.twitter.com/OOdv5AFz0Z— ً (@LSComps) January 18, 2021
Smith Rowe is a technically gifted player who already shows good decision-making capabilities in the final third of the pitch. His off-the-ball movement is possibly his greatest asset, along with his tendency to move the ball quickly and sharply over short distances. His instinctive, risk-taking, pass-and-move style seems to be getting the most out of teammates Saka and Alex Lacazette.
🗣"This is a big compliment to Arsene Wenger, he could have played in the old Arsenal teams"— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 18, 2021
Gary Neville is full of praise of Emile Smith Rowe's impact in the Arsenal team @emilesmithrowe | @GNev2 pic.twitter.com/v9R1ao8lIu
ESR isn't dissimilar to ex-Gunners creator Samir Nasri in terms of how he moves off the ball and looks to take risks by shifting it quickly in forward areas. He's nominally Arsenal's "number 10" and chief creator, but often drifts into wider areas much like Nasri did under Arsène Wenger. Smith Rowe, in contrast to Nasri, takes fewer touches and doesn't carry the ball over long distances, opting instead to give-and-go with smart one-twos. Saka's goal in the snow at West Brom is a perfect illustration.
Despite the emergence of Smith Rowe, Mikel Arteta is still likely to be on the look-out for a high-profile midfield schemer if one becomes available in the transfer market. Emile Smith Rowe has put his hand up though and is now firmly part of the first team furniture at Arsenal.
The Gunners have a new creator and although his socks are permanently down, Emile Smith Rowe is pulling Arsenal's collective socks up in 2021.