Emile Smith Rowe’s fitness issues continue to be a head-scratcher for player and club with Mikel Arteta admitting the midfielder hasn’t been able to train pain-free.
Unable to feature during pre-season due to a groin issue, the 22-year-old gradually stepped up his load with four appearances off the bench before relapsing in the aftermath of the defeat to Manchester United.
It’s currently unclear when he might return to action but is set to miss Sunday’s trip to Brentford and faces a race against time to be available for the north London derby at the start of October.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Arteta of the situation.
“He’s a kid that loves playing. It’s the biggest thing in his life. And when he’s not capable of doing that, especially after the run of games and performances that he had with us the year before, it’s just difficult.
“When he’s been trying to train he’s not been feeling 100 per cent fit or pain-free. This is the main concern and we have to find a solution to that.”
Smith Rowe struggled with a number of injuries as he made his way through the Arsenal academy but managed to get a run of games under his belt for Huddersfield on loan in 2020 that persuaded the Gunners to bring him back into the fold.
Even then he had to overcome a shoulder issue before being thrown in the deep by Arteta end on Boxing Day that year.
For the best part of a year, he played freely (and brilliantly) but in the second half of last season, he clearly wasn’t himself.
“It’s an ongoing issue,” said Arteta of the most recent problem.
“He’s had some discomfort in the groin and hasn’t had any continuity this season. We’re trying to help him. We need him at his best because he’s such an important player for us.”
It has been suggested in some quarters that Smith Rowe might require surgery but you’d imagine he’ll want to avoid that at the moment if he’s to have any chance of making England’s World Cup squad.
He hasn’t been selected by the Three Lions for the last couple of squads and it looks increasingly likely he may spend the winter months at London Colney rather than Qatar.