Mikel Arteta says Arsenal needed to “draw a line” under Emile Smith Rowe’s fitness issues following the news the England international has had an operation on his groin.
The Arsenal medical team has been trying to help the 22-year-old manage a persistent issue for much of this year but following a “significant setback” earlier this month, the player and club have bitten the bullet and opted for surgery in a bid to solve it once and for all.
It’s a decision that won’t have been taken lightly. Not only will Smith Rowe miss a significant chunk of domestic action up to January, but he’s also missing out on consideration for England’s World Cup squad.
Speaking ahead of the north London derby, Arteta explained: “We had to make a decision, we could not continue with the uncertainty; do we have him, don’t we have him, we don’t have him in certain conditions.
“We needed to put a line, draw a line, we made that decision and the player was the first one demanding almost that he wanted an end decision and we supported that. Now we have to prepare him to get back stronger than he was.
He continued: “We put all the alternatives on the table. The thing is, we’ve tried some other [options] in the last few months and they haven’t really worked to the point the player is comfortable and consistently available at his best to perform. Then we decided to take that route. We all thought it was the best decision and we stick to it and move on.”
In yesterday’s statement from the club, they estimated that the player will return to training in December. Given he’ll need to regain match sharpness, it’s more than possible that Smith Rowe won’t start games well into 2023.
At this point, Arteta won’t be drawn on a specific timeline for his number 10’s return to action.
“I don’t know. After a surgery, it’s very difficult to give a timeline, the first process, how the bones heal, how is his first reaction, is he in pain, is he not, how is he adapting.
“We need to go step by step. Obviously, we know that before the World Cup is not going to be easy. After that we have a break and we need to use it in the right way.”