When Emile Smith Rowe returned to first team training following groin surgery, he will have been hoping to make a big impact on Arsenal’s season. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really worked out that way.
90 minutes of football across three competitions since the turn of the year represents slim pickings for the England international who has had to contend with rustiness, a minor injury setback and the good form of his teammates, who in his absence have made themselves nearly undroppable.
After such a stop-start 2022, it’s easy to forget how important the midfielder was to Arsenal’s early renaissance under Mikel Arteta and the form he produced to earn himself a new deal and the club’s famous number 10 shirt.
The worry is that while Smith Rowe continues to feed off scraps, his confidence takes a bashing and we struggle to get him back to where he was. As such, Arteta faces something of a balancing act in his treatment of the 22-year-old.
Clearly, he needs to put an arm around the shoulder of his young star while also challenging him to meet the required standards on the training pitch to earn more minutes.
“He knows how much we love him and he knows how much we missed him and how much we need his qualities,” the boss told the press ahead of Arsenal’s Europa League clash with Sporting Lisbon.
“Now he needs to prove it, he needs to prove how much he wants to win, how much he’s going to contribute to this team to be better and to win. He’s going to have to show that to get in the team.”
For the moment, it seems as though concerns about the player’s fitness continue to linger.
“I think we have to manage his load but for sure he’s in a position where we can throw him in the team in any moment. Then it’s about, how he’s coping with the game in general and whether to take him off or whether to use him for the last few minutes of the game.”
Smith Rowe didn’t get off the bench for last week’s first leg 2-2 draw in Lisbon. With players returning from injury and illness, he faces an even taller order to get on the pitch at the Emirates.