Mikel Arteta says he was delighted to see three of his young English players representing their country and believes the opportunity to share such experiences is beneficial to Arsenal.
Emile Smith Rowe earned a late call-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad for their final World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino and made an instant impact with a debut off the bench at Wembley followed by a goal on his first start.
The 21-year-old midfielder was joined on the pitch in the second game by Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale, another debutant, as England fielded three Gunners at the same time for the first time since 2014.
On Smith Rowe getting his chance to shine, Arteta said: “First of all, I was surprised because it happened just after the game against Watford but I was extremely happy for him.
“I know the expectations he had, a lot of talk around him and he really enjoyed it. I saw him yesterday and he was delighted.
“To score for your country is always something special and he made us proud. Not just him but obviously Bukayo and Aaron starting for the national team is a great sign for the club.”
He added: “I see it as a reward. In Emile’s case, it was his first time. [A reward] not just for what he’s doing on the pitch but the maturity he’s showing to handle many different situations that have occurred very, very quickly for him in his career in the last few months.
“I just see enjoyment and happiness. Obviously, for them to be bonding together in that environment, that elite environment, it’s very, very beneficial.”
Having outlined his ambition to become England’s first-choice goalkeeper in advance of next year’s World Cup, Aaron Ramsdale was unsurprisingly over the moon to get his first cap, even if he barely had anything to do in the 6-0 mauling of San Marino.
“He was given the chance, he took the chance and he showed the progress and the quality that he’s shown in the performances [for Arsenal],” said Arteta.
“In the end, they trusted him to put that shirt on and start for England which is a big thing. I’m delighted for him.”
Having returned to London Colney sporting near-identical olive tracksuits, Saka, Ramsdale and Smith Rowe were quickly on the receiving end of some stick from Sambi Lokonga, who jokingly pointed out they had “No personality, yeah…that’s crazy.” Not one to miss an opportunity to have a dig, Kieran Tierney quickly piped up, “Typical English, bro.”
All fun and games.