Emile Smith Rowe must be involved for Arsenal against Burnley.
Does that mean start? In the fantasy world Arsenal fans build, one that involves youth getting the nod over, say…Willian, then yes it does. In a more realistic setting, a place in the squad may have to suffice.
As the only recognised No. 10 in the squad (available for selection), Emile Smith Rowe has come to the point in the season where exactly how the remainder of the term plays out won’t be decided by him.
His form for the Under-23 side is superb, while his cameo appearances and first start against Dundalk ticked all manner of boxes. As the knockout stages loom and a jam-packed Premier League fixture list kicks off on Sunday, how much he plays rests solely on Mikel Arteta.
Regardless of who Arsenal draw in the next stage of the Europa League, youth is expected to slowly filter out of the side in favour of the regular senior players, lessening the opportunities that Smith Rowe will get in the first team.
Where we’re at now is boredom. Bored of not seeing the correct profiles chosen over established names. Bored of lethargic, predictable football. Bored of knowing the lineup days in advance. Bored of losing.
At a point where guile in between the lines doesn’t exist – qualities Smith Rowe possesses – he can do no more to warrant regular minutes.
"“He’s a player with very specific qualities to play in those pockets in that position as an attacking midfielder,” Arteta told Sky Sports back in October.“I am excited to work with him. I have been talking with him and I have followed him during his spell on loan. I think he’s someone who can be pretty impressive.“I’m pleased by what I’ve seen from him. He needed that exposure and he looks more mature now. I think he will be in a much better place when he comes back in pre-season.”"
Aware of the offensive intricacies the 20-year-old offers, he’s now had the ‘exposure’ Arteta spoke of. A Burnley side happy to set up shop with two flat banks of four is the ideal setting for a player of his ilk.
Someone who has the craft to operate in tight spaces, makes diverse and aggressive runs and is a threat either coming short or running in behind, the stage is set. He isn’t going to absolve Arsenal of all their woes, and placing too much expectation on him can be damaging, but nobody can build a case strong enough to declare we’d be worse off with him in the side.
Two goals in seven Premier League matches. One was from the spot. It’s appalling.
Arteta insisted the solution was ‘simple’: score more goals. How does one go about doing so? By fielding players who can either score them or create them. That, is simple.
If you were to ask Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who he’d rather have in the No. 10 slot, he’d champion Smith Rowe. Well, he’d want someone, and he’s the only one.
Convincing the captain to stay involved promises of creative additions in the summer, none forthcoming, but even he must be questioning the decision to omit Smith Rowe having watched him perform so admirably in Europe.
With tough fixtures against Southampton and Everton on the horizon, Burnley on home soil is about as suited an opportunity as there could be for Smith Rowe. Because honestly, if he isn’t featuring here, where will he? When the FA Cup comes around in January?
Choose your team on merit. Choose your team to provide answers to problems. Choose Emile Smith Rowe.