Mikel Arteta insists that everyone at Arsenal loves Emile Smith Rowe, and says that tonight’s EFL Cup game against Brentford is an opportunity for him to show what he can do.
The 23 year old has yet to start a game this season, on top of having not been picked to start a single match in the last campaign, in part because he missed the first half of it due to surgery.
It was something the Arsenal boss was asked about in his pre-match press conference, saying, “Well, there’s been many reasons why he hasn’t started a match. Obviously, he was out for a long, long time. And then he had the sequence of matches that he played with the national team.
“He’s played more minutes and tomorrow he’ll have a big chance to show that he can play at this level and he can be a really important player for us.”
The affection the fans have for the Hale End graduate was evident when cheers welcomed his introduction against PSV in the Champions League, and Arteta made it clear those feeling are the same internally.
“Obviously we speak with our players and we try to explain the reason why we make certain decisions,” he said, “but he’s clear on what he needs to do – which is performing on the pitch and giving the best to win games for us.
“He us incredibly popular. We all love him. It’s no different what the people feel and what we feel about him.
“But one thing is to be there, the other one is to start, and then once you start, are you consistent to stay there, and you have to stay fit as well.”
As for where he fits within the current system, the manager suggests he’s no longer likely to play out wide in the way that was so effective for him in the past, saying, “I think the best position for Emil is to play in those pockets.
“He’s not to play as a pure winger that regardless on how we play the position that he would have to play if he’s playing as a pure winger.
“I think it suits him, I think the relationship will suit him and now he needs the minutes and he needs to prove that he can do what he can do.”
Let’s hope we can see the reemergence of Smith Rowe this evening, especially in light of some potential injuries, because the more players we have available and ready to contribute, the better.