Emile Smith Rowe says he’s looking forward to playing for England under-21s this summer after admitting last season was the “hardest” of his career.
The midfielder, 22, barely featured in the Premier League last season after opting to have surgery in September on a long-standing groin injury.
Having used the World Cup hiatus to rehabilitate, the Hale End graduate was hoping to hit the ground running in January but there were fitness setbacks along the way and he couldn’t force his way into a starting lineup featuring in-form teammates in his preferred positions.
Despite his struggles, Arsenal have made it clear that Smith Rowe is not for sale and the player is now focused on getting match sharp at at the Under-21 European Championships in Georgia and Romania before starting afresh at Emirates Stadium in August.
“Arsenal are my club and I’m not going to give up until [Arteta] says he doesn’t want me,” Smith Rowe told The Times.
“But that’s not the case. He wants me as part of the team and I want to fight for my place and get back in the team.”
He added: “I just want to be on the pitch. This was the hardest season of my career.
“It was tough, but we were in a title race and I understand the manager isn’t going to change the team if we’re winning every game,” he says.
“I just tried to stay positive and train as well as I could. The other players and Mikel [Arteta] were great with me, kept me feeling connected. But it was tough, a long season. I won’t lie.”
Smith Rowe also revealed that his groin problem had been so bad that he was having injections every week to help him through games the season before last.
“I had this injury in my groin since, maybe, I was 19 years old. I’d just been managing it season after season, getting injections and taking tablets to not feel it.
“Last season [the 2021-22 campaign] I had an injection which would make me not feel my groin at all, even when kicking the ball. That was the only thing helping me get through games.
“But at the start of this season I was still feeling it and felt I couldn’t just keep having injections for the rest of my career. I got to Manchester United away and took a shot, off balance, but tried to use all my power. I knew as soon as I done it, I’d torn something.”
Here’s hoping Emile can get back to his best. On his day, he’s an incredible weapon to have at our disposal.