With Freddie Ljungberg moving up to an Assistant Manager role, tasked with transitioning our youth products into the first team, it means our talented kids who have impressed recently have a fantastic opportunity to make a real impact.
None more so than Emile Smith-Rowe
The uber-skilled Smith-Rowe made his presence felt in the first half of last season, earning a loan move to the Bundesliga for the remainder of the campaign with RB Leipzig.
Despite the loan move turning sour thanks to injury, Smith-Rowe has underlined his progress, and with Aaron Ramsey having now departed the club, could we have the teenager filling the gap left by the attacking Welshman?
Smith-Rowe certainly fits the bill in terms of style. Adept to late runs into the box and with a deft touch to aid link-up play in and around the box, his skills certainly wouldn’t look amiss in the possession of an older player. He belies his years, and on his appearances for the first team last season, he definitely didn’t look out of place amidst the more established players.
What will Emery decide? Could Smith-Rowe do with another season of blooding? Eking out the necessary mistakes that every youth player must make in order to learn and earn the scars that allow the refining of precocious skillsets?
Or does Smith-Rowe already have enough in his locker for our Spanish coach to be unable to ignore his calls for the first team? Age is after all, just a number. It is a similar case to when Cesc Fabregas broke through in his teenage years, and became a mainstay and in the end, the jewel, of the Arsenal teams he played in until his departure to Barcelona.
Smith-Rowe has an opportunity to not only save Arsenal a big amount in the transfer window, but also have a breakthrough season with no glass ceiling. The sky is the limit for this kid, and it could be next season that we see Smith-Rowe hold down a first team spot and grab the headlines for his performances.
Does he stay or does he go? Pre-season will tell us much. He featured for us in our last summer set of friendlies, and if he does so again, it could be an indicator that Emery is keen to utilise this kid in his eleven.
These friendly matches might just be more than money-spinners after all…