The departure of Granit Xhaka has left uncertainty in Arsenal’s left side of the midfield. Many are questioning the reasoning for letting the Swiss international leave the side when he was such a vital player. Last season was one of his best in an Arsenal shirt, picking up seven goals and seven assists. Not just judging from stats, but his impact away from goal contributions was sincere to the side.
Mikel Arteta has been experimenting with several players to try and fill the boots of Xhaka throughout the season, and so far no-one has stamped authority on the position, the likes of Kai Havertz, Fabio Vieira and even Leandro Trossard have had some game time in the role.
There os a lot of talk right now involving Havertz and if he is fit for the role. It is too quick to judge, however, it seems so far that his presence in games is not what many would have hoped for.
Vieira came off the bench against Fulham, in which he assisted and won a penalty for the side, and also assisted against Manchester United; since then he has struggled to make an impact.
Should Mikel Arteta turn to Emile Smith-Rowe?
At the start of last season, Emile Smith-Rowe picked up a groin injury which saw him out of action until November. Since then he has not picked up consistent game time. He has not started a game since Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Newcastle in the 2021/22 season. Before his injury, he was a key player for Arteta. In the same season he picked up 11 goals and two assists in all competitions, and was on route to be the next Hale End sensation alongside Bukayo Saka.
Emile Smith Rowe is the first Arsenal academy graduate to score 10+ goals in a season for the club since Cesc Fabregas in 2009/10.
And this time there’s no assist from La Masia. 😉 pic.twitter.com/6nGI3NTIwd
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 19, 2022
Smith-Rowe adds a different dynamic and qualities to what Vieira and Havertz can offer when at his best he has the ability to dribble with ease at a fast pace, and great passing, he can also finish. With the current players struggling to cement their place in the position, Arteta should definitely give him the opportunity to prove himself and show off what he can do, it’s not like he is blindly being thrown into the squad without any experience.
Last season Arteta commented on Smith-Rowe, saying “Emile knows that he has the space in the squad to fulfil his potential,” adding “But he knows now that he has to jump on the train fast enough to have the impact we all hope he can have on the season for us.” Judging from these comments, when given the opportunity, he has to make sure he impresses the boss. Otherwise, there is a line of other players who are just as hungry to get game time.
Exploring alternative roles
Something to mention is the fact he is a versatile player who can fill in many positions throughout the squad, such as left-wing, attacking midfield, and central midfield. With injuries to both Gabriel Martinelli and Trossard, the opportunity is there to give him a chance to work his way back into the squad. As a result, it will be interesting to see if Arteta does it.
With the EFL Cup coming up alongside Champions League fixtures, team rotation will be vital to Arsenal’s success in multiple competitions. Thus, one would expect to see Smith-Rowe feature in some games more often than not. Arteta has only been giving him around 15 minutes on average off the bench.
There must be a plan for the number 10, as Chelsea was interested in signing him in the summer. It was not entertained by Arsenal, so the question is what does Arteta have in store for Emile Smith-Rowe and can he revive his career at the club? Only time will answer that question.