Arsenal have had a fairly solid start this campaign, winning three out of their first five and only losing against last season’s top two. Their defence has become a lot more solid after the acquisition of Gabriel, however they seem to be suffering from a creative drought at the other end of the pitch.
Despite the arrival of Thomas Partey, Arsenal are still facing a midfield conundrum. Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos have now established themselves as an effective midfield pivot in possession, and youngster Joe Willock is still finding his most effective position in the team.
Creative maestro Mesut Ozil has been left out of Arsenal’s Premier League squad for the 2020/21 season, and the club failed to capture Houssem Aouar from Lyon during the summer transfer window. All this equates to the fact that Arsenal have been left with very few quality attacking options from midfield.
The answer to their creative woes may be closer to home than expected, as they already have a promising young creative talent within their ranks. Emile Smith Rowe, who has already made his debut for the club, is the creative spark that Arsenal need to unlock the full devastating potential of Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Known as the ‘Croydon KDB’ to many fans on Twitter, the 20 year-old made his debut on a pre-season tour of Singapore back in 2018. He featured in two games against European giants Atletico Madrid and PSG, scoring a cracking goal against the Spanish side and providing an assist against the Parisians.
Since then he made his full competitive debut in the Europa League, coming off the bench in the Group stage game against Vorskla Poltava. He started the following game against Qarabag, scoring in the Gunner’s 3-0 win. During the 2018/19 season he also scored his first goal at the Emirates against Blackpool in a Carabao Cup game.
He has also been on two important loan moves at Bundesliga club RB Leipzig, and more recently at Huddersfield Town. He scored 2 goals in 19 games for the Championship side, but Huddersfield’s manager during that spell, Danny Cowley, knew his influence on the game was more than just goals and assists.
After the clubs 2-1 win against Bristol City last season he said, “Emile Smith Rowe is just a really lovely player, isn’t he? He has that ability to find space. He could find space in a telephone box. He speeds the play up for you and draws and commits players in.” He was also quoted saying he boos himself when he has to take him off as he never wants to.
Emile would perfectly fit into the new 4-3-3 system that Arteta is slowly implementing. With him playing in the number 10 role it would leave less attacking responsibility from the two midfielders behind him, whether that be Ceballos, Xhaka or Partey.
The young attacking midfielder is known for his forward runs and line breaking ‘key’ passes, the latter of which Arsenal are dying for this season having only created 7 big chances, with prolific goalscorer Aubameyang having only scored 1 goal. This may seem like he has had a slow start to the season but the Gabon international has also missed no big chances and only had one created for him.
With the addition of Thomas Partey, Arteta will now be able to deploy the 4-3-3 formation that he has been waiting for. Smith Rowe is the perfect player to fit into the attacking role of this formation as his accurate passing and ability to isolate defenders will free up more space for the front three. The two midfielders behind him will also be able to cover him, giving the playmaker enough time to be as free with the ball as he needs.
Smith Rowe’s versatility will also come in handy for the Gunners, as he can also play as a right winger, should he become a first team regular we could see him used similarly to Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles as both have played in various positions for Arsenal since Mikel Arteta took over.
The pressure of stepping in to fill arguably one of the greatest creative minds the game has ever seen in Mesut Ozil, may seem like too much for such a young player, but we have seen many young stars from Arsenal’s Hale End academy shine on the big stage for the Gunners.
With plenty of Europa League Group Stage games coming up, could the ‘Croydon KDB’ be the next young talent to have an influence on the biggest stages for the North London side? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram!
Written by James Bousfield – Twitter – @JamesBousfi3ld