Pre-season games are primarily about building up fitness but they can also be fantastic opportunities for young players to impress and command more playing time when the real action gets underway.
Emile Smith Rowe is certainly doing everything in his power to ensure that he can, at the very least, be involved in the cup competitions for Arsenal this season, and today, in the game against Atletico Madrid, the Hale End graduate produced an encouraging display, with his superb goal the undoubted highlight.
Smith Rowe was recommended to Unai Emery as a player who should be taken on tour and that decision has proven to be an inspired one as the 17-year-old performed impressively against Atletico and certainly didn’t look out of place in a first-team environment.
Possessing excellent close control and capable of bursting past players with ease when the opportunity presents itself, Smith Rowe is certainly one of Arsenal’s standout youngsters and the hope now is that he will be able to push on further under Emery’s guidance and eventually become part of the first-team squad.
Of course, there is still much work to do. Just ask Jeff Reine-Adelaide who three years ago was making numerous headlines with his pre-season displays yet today has left the club on a permanent basis to join Angers.
Reine-Adelaide endured much misfortune with injuries but his tale is evidence that until a player is firmly cemented as part of the first-team squad, they aren’t guaranteed to make it at the club, and even then it takes something special for them to continue to perform at a very high level.
For now, though, Smith Rowe’s development is going very well indeed. Last season he frequently caught the eye at youth level, especially in the FA Youth Cup, and he is expected to be a regular for the U23s this season as they look to defend the Premier League 2 title.
The Europa League and the League Cup could present opportunities for Smith Rowe to become increasingly involved with the first-team and it isn’t out of the question that he could make his Premier League debut next campaign if he keeps progressing.
Currently Smith Rowe should just continue to take each game as it comes and look to develop even further. He is certainly doing well so far.