Emile Smith Rowe says his involvement with the Arsenal first team this season still feels like a dream and that benefitting from one-on-one mentoring from Unai Emery is ‘surreal’.
The 18-year-old came to prominence during the Gunners pre-season tour of the Far East and has since consolidated his claim to a first team spot with eye-catching performances in six appearances across the Europa League and Carabao Cup.
The attacking midfielder, who is still technically an academy player, has even helped himself to three goals this season and hopes he can continue to repay the faith shown in him by the club’s new coaching staff.
“I’ve said the word too much, I think, but it’s surreal,” he told Sky Sports ahead of Thursday’s game with Qarabag.
“I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘What is going on?’ I look up to these players so much. To get a chance to be in the same dressing room as them – let alone on the same pitch – is unbelievable. I still feel like I’m in a dream.
“I was shocked that I even went away with the first-team in pre-season, so to get the chances that the manager has given me has just been great.
“It’s a bit surreal to think about the players he [Emery] has worked with. Now he’s there giving me advice. I’m grateful for what he has done for me. All I can do is just play really well for him and show him how good I am.”
After impressing in the summer, Arsenal were quick to tie Smith Rowe down to a new long-term contract. He’s now being tipped to fill the boots of Aaron Ramsey who looks set to leave the Emirates by next season. From the sounds of things, the club seems intent on honing his game in a creative role behind the strikers.
“We had conversations at the beginning about what positions I like to play and what my attributes are,” Smith Rowe revealed. “Since then he has been giving me a lot of help and advice.
“The manager has done one-to-one stuff with me a few times after training, working on one-v-one attacking and just being patient.
The assistant manager [Juan Carlos Carcedo] has been helping me a lot too with turning on the ball when I play in the No 10 position.
“It’s good to get that help on the pitch, so I can actually practise it, instead of in the classroom. But even in the classroom, they have both had one-on-ones with me which I’ve found really useful.”
Apparently, Smith Rowe has been nursing an injury in the last couple of weeks. It’s not clear whether it’s serious or not – the medical team didn’t include him in their weekly bulletin and we didn’t spot in him in the training pictures – but there’s a chance he might not be in our heavily rotated squad this evening. That would obviously be a shame.
You can read Smith Rowe’s full chat with Sky Sports, in which he discusses coming up through the ranks at Arsenal, the players who’ve helped him settle and screaming at the north London derby on TV, here.