Emile Smith-Rowe is just 19 years of age, but in terms of expectation, his is a light that burns brighter than most.
Arsenal are lucky enough to have a productive academy that is churning out some top class youth potential. The likes of Bukayo Saka, Alex iwobi, Reiss Nelson, Zech Medley and Jo Willock are pure evidence that behind the scenes, our youth coaching setup is reaping dividends.
Smith-Rowe is the one everyone’s eyes are on though.
One of the first to break through under the new regime of Unai Emery, the playmaker excelled when given the playing time – something that was increasing with every minute on the grass.
His displays in the domestic cups and our Europa League campaign belied his tender years, and he fitted in with his more illustrious counterparts. Aubameyang and Lacazette were enjoying the velvet touch and excellent vision that Smith-Rowe provides, and for a kid not exactly on the hefty side, he can put in a tackle too.
It came to crunch time midway through last season though, and a loan move to Bundesliga heavyweights RB Leipzig was arranged. Not a destination for a kid destined to ply his trade with also-rans.
Unfortunately, an injury put paid to his attempt to light up the German crowds, much like his Arsenal brethren Reiss Nelson with Hoffenheim respectively.
Smith-Rowe has now returned to Arsenal and has regained the fitness that has eluded him for the past months. He is ready to show exactly how much impact he can have – and is the path open for him to claim the Number10 spot?
With Mesut Ozil in Arsenal’s no-man’s land, and loanee Dani Ceballos looking to be preferred as a mobile Number6, Smith-Rowe – with some good performances – could well stake his claim for next season.
Does that mean should we lose both Ceballos and Ozil this summer – which is looking increasingly likely – that we don’t purchase a verified, established playmaker? Does youth take priority over instant success?
Smith-Rowe has the opportunity to make his name RIGHT NOW in our first team. A few games where he harnesses his talents fully in the Europa League, could propel him into the first team reckoning for the Premier League games.
Unai Emery has shown he isn’t frightened to use youth – Bukayo Saka, Willock and Nelson are all very much in Emery’s plans.
Smith-Rowe could be joining them with a run of form and fitness.
Watch this space.