Emile Smith Rowe took the number ten shirt in the summer after signing a new contract at Arsenal. It was seen as a display of belief from Mikel Arteta and the club. The early results weren’t great for the Gunners, but the Hale End academy graduate did stand out as one of the better performers during this period. The weekend victory over Tottenham was a coming of age performance for the midfielder.
During the second half of last season, he emerged as a first teamer for Arsenal. The Gunners were crying out for creativity in advanced areas and he was finally given a chance to show his quality. At a time when there was little for supporters to get excited about, Smith Rowe provided a reason to watch the games. Alongside Bukayo Saka, he is the future of the club and could be vital in a return to European competition.
A return of two goals and four assists in the Premier League last season gave an indication of the impact he can have at this level. Smith Rowe averaged a goal involvement every 241.3 minutes.
The talent was clearly there, but Arteta will want him to increase his goal involvement in the coming months. The show of faith to give him the number ten shirt confirmed his status within the squad, but it also increased the pressure on the midfielder to perform.
Arteta and Smith Rowe will both take a lot of vindication from his performance against Tottenham. Alongside Saka, he was the star of the show. To be able to deliver that in a huge game underlines his impressive mentality to match the talent.
Although he only had one shot in the game, he took his chance and it was impressive movement to get into the position to open the scoring. This is an area of Smith Rowe’s game that really stands out. He understands the positions he needs to get in and he has the engine to get into the box to support the striker.
The main attribute that stands out is his ability to link play in the final third. His assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed his creative quality. Meanwhile, he completed 88% of his passes during the game on Sunday. Considering he was operating in advanced areas, this shows elite ball retention. With Martin Odegaard and Smith Rowe playing in the same team, Arsenal should be very good at keeping the ball in forward areas.
This was a coming of age performance from Smith Rowe, which has kick started his 2021/22 season. Arteta will be hoping that he can deliver this level of performance on a regular basis. If he does that, he will repay the faith shown in him during the summer.