Pre-season is typically a time when young players are given opportunities to impress in the first-team, and that was certainly the case in the 8-0 thrashing of Boreham Wood yesterday.
Arsenal, as had been expected given the strength of the squad they took to Meadow Park, were utterly dominant and two youth players managed to get on the scoresheet in Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah.
Jordi Osei-Tutu, who is usually deployed at right-back, impressed at left-back as he defended well and also pushed forwards to excellent effect, but it was another prospect who really stood out, with Emile Smith Rowe seizing his opportunity in his maiden first-team appearance.
Last season Smith Rowe underwent the transition from winger to central midfielder and he was impressive in the latter position against Boreham Wood as he linked play extremely well and also demonstrated his excellent technique.
The 4-3-3 formation which Unai Emery deployed seems to suit Smith Rowe, who also tracked back well defensively when required, and this certainly won’t be the last that we will see of him in a first-team environment.
Smith Rowe will be aiming to make the squad for Arsenal’s upcoming trip to Singapore, although competition for places could well be fierce with players returning from World Cup duty.
His display yesterday, though, indicates that he is capable of adapting to the demands that Emery requires of his players and he seemed on the same wavelength of the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Smith Rowe has been compared to Kevin De Bruyne in terms of playing style and the similarities are striking in the way that they are both capable of dictating the game.
Of course, Smith Rowe has a very long way to go to match De Bruyne’s standing in the game, but yesterday’s display was a small but significant step in the right direction.
It is anticipated that this season the England youth international will, at some stage, make his competitive debut for the first-team, which is likely to come in one of the cup competitions.
Joe Willock, in contrast, wasn’t quite at his sharpest against Boreham Wood. The midfielder seems slightly taller and stronger physically since he was last in action but he struggled to impose himself and sent a couple of efforts over the target.
The arrival of Matteo Guendouzi, who had an encouraging cameo appearance, could push Willock down the pecking order and may lead to him heading out on loan.
For Smith Rowe, though, further first-team opportunities are likely to be on the horizon.