We could win something with Arsenal’s kids.
With the halfway point of the season fast approaching, and a jam-packed festive schedule on the horizon, Arsenal will be glad to see the back of what was a truly wretched November. A month has passed since we last recorded a Premier League win and, with the shortage of goals up top, coupled with a struggling defence, that famous victory at Old Trafford is now a distant memory.
Thankfully, the same cannot be said for our Europa League adventure, where we secured our place as group winners on Thursday night following a comprehensive victory against Rapid Vienna. Once again, as they have done so often already this season, it was our academy products who stole the show and momentarily lifted the gloom that has descended on the club.
While Mikel Arteta will take a number of positives from the game, particularly the displays of Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, the impact of Emile Smith Rowe off the bench, along with Joe Willock‘s performances in Europe lately may be two of the most pleasing aspects of our difficult campaign.
Calls to blood more young players into the team have gathered momentum recently as fans grow increasingly disillusioned with the sub-par performances of established figures in the side. To his credit, Arteta has attempted to inject some youthful ingenuity into our one-dimensional midfield, with Smith Rowe now finally beginning to be integrated into the first-team, while Willock has earned a starting spot in each of our last two league games.
Personally, I have been a long-time admirer of Smith Rowe and would love to see him play more frequently, especially in cup competitions. Despite that, when considering Arteta’s robust faith in others who have struggled this season, such as Willian and Alexandre Lacazette, it is unlikely that Willock will lose his place to Smith Rowe for the foreseeable future.
Willock simply must be afforded more opportunities if he is to establish himself in the starting eleven, although his showings against Leeds and Wolves were quite disappointing.
However, if our creative issues persist over the coming weeks, we could also see Smith Rowe play an important role in the league. The former Huddersfield loanee caught the eye with his performances for both the Championship side last season and at Arsenal over the years, while there is no doubting the talent he possesses.
His impressive close-control and movement are badly needed in the first team and hopefully with more contributions like his goal against Rapid Vienna, he will feature more often as the season progresses.
Arteta’s main objective at the moment is to starting picking up three points again, and both Willock and Smith Rowe may find themselves on the bench for Sunday’s North London Derby if we opt for an overall defensive approach. However, the boss will have taken great encouragement from their bright showings of late and they may play a significant role in the near future.