Emile Smith Rowe has been outstanding for Arsenal in just 231 minutes of football.
Across his last three Arsenal appearances Emile Smith Rowe has made such an impression that fans had briefly forgotten how utterly atrocious this season has been.
Making a surprise start against Chelsea and helping inspire his side to a 3-1 win was followed up by a stirring display in the 1-0 victory over Brighton, although he had his best game in an Arsenal shirt to date with a superb outing in the 4-0 romp over West Brom.
Mikel Arteta‘s insistence to field the wrong players for the wrong positions was born out of an urge to play names over profiles. The decision to offer the creative slot in the side to someone built to operate there has made a startling difference. Playing any No. 10 in the advanced midfield slot would have sparked, at least, a change of approach, but Smith Rowe is not just any No. 10.
He’s been exceptional.
This is someone who understands space better than Neil deGrasse Tyson. No other available members of the squad know how to manipulate gaps in the pitch and use them to their side’s advantage quite like Smith Rowe.
Having the vision is a start; possessing the awareness and technical ability is another matter entirely. The 20-year-old scans the pitch relentlessly, always in tune with the movements of his teammates and the positions of the opposition.
Turning on a sixpence, he can receive the ball and shift into a forward action with one drop of the shoulder, immediately putting his side on the front foot. Crucially, his eye is always on the opposition goal. Once that ball leaves his foot, he shifts into the next available gap from which to continue building.
Arsenal’s second goal of the night fully embodied all of those traits. Spacial awareness meant he knew exactly where Bukayo Saka was, wonderfully flicking the ball into his path and immediately bursting forward. Continuing his run, he collected the return from Alexandre Lacazette in his stride with a delectable touch on the outside of his left boot, before putting it on a plate for Saka to tap home.
Creative problem? What creative problem?
It’s been made clear by all affiliated with the club that they’re in the market for another creative midfielder this January, although the latest speculation suggests Mikel Arteta has something else on his mind.