Mikel Arteta set to give Emile Smith Rowe new Arsenal role after Luton display

 
Emile Smith Rowe of Arsenal during a training session at Sobha Realty Training Centre on March 29, 2024 in London Colney, England.

From the moment Emile Smith Rowe was named in the Arsenal starting XI it was always going to be a huge night for him. The Hale Ender has started just once in 2024, and played just 91 minutes since the winter break.

A minor ankle injury has played a part in that. But primarily he can argue he's not had a fair crack of the whip.

With Arsenal 5-0 up at half-time against Sheffield United he could not get on the pitch. With a win over Burnley secured when Bukayo Saka scored the third in the 47th minute, Smith Rowe could still only accrue five minutes. Speaking prior to the match, though, Mikel Arteta seemed to suggest this was an issue he did not have too much sympathy for.


"When you play you say 'yeah but it’s my first game.' Our obligation and our duty is to be prepared to play any minute in any moment," he said. "Look at the example of Reiss [Nelson]. His best moment for Arsenal, it's a moment where he played a few minutes and made a huge impact and it's one of the best days in his life as an Arsenal player. Nobody remembers if he started or if it was off the bench.

"There are a lot of examples in world sport where players made the impact. Sometimes you just need a second to change the history of a football club. You don't need 100 minutes to play football."

So this was to be Smith Rowe’s moment. Would he take it? The answer was most certainly: 'Yes'.

The Hale Ender earned possession off Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu to spark the move that allowed Martin Odegaard to open the scoring. Then just before half-time he showed the composure required to pick out Reiss Nelson with a cutback, even if it went in off Daiki Hashioka. On a lowkey night at Emirates Stadium, it was these two moments of quality which ultimately won the game.

But it wasn't just what Smith Rowe did on the ball. It was also his work off it. As the 23-year-old mishit a ball out of play in the second half he earned rapturous applause from Arteta for sprinting over to the other side of the pitch to take up his defensive position for the throw in. It's moments like this that the Spaniard was keen to highlight after the game.

"I love him as a player, he is a joy to watch," Arteta said in his post-match press conference. "How he moves, changes direction and how physical he was today without the ball. 

He went into duels and won a lot of them and was thinking with that killer instinct to play forward and make things happen. When Emile is in that moment, it's very difficult to stop him. Today he helped us a lot to win the game."

The ball is now in Arteta's court when it comes to Smith Rowe's role between now and the end of the season. The Hale Ender has seized his moment, and the hope will be it's the first of many in this crucial period of the season for Arsenal.

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