Emile Smith Rowe proves he's still got something to give Arsenal in Luton win

  • Emile Smith Rowe impressed on third Premier League start of the season vs Luton
  • Smith Rowe instrumental in both goals
  • Mikel Arteta admits he loves watching ESR play

Emile Smith Rowe impressed on Wednesday night
Emile Smith Rowe impressed on Wednesday night / Julian Finney/GettyImages

Emile Smith Rowe is always going to have a special place in Mikel Arteta's heart. If it wasn't for the Hale End graduate, the Spaniard may have exited north London a long time ago.

Smith Rowe proved to be the spark Arteta oh so desperately needed midway through the 2020/21 season. Arsenal had won just one of their previous ten Premier League outings when Chelsea rocked up to the Emirates on Boxing Day, expecting to prolong the Gunners' misery. Instead, they were cast aside but an ebullient outfit inspired by Smith Rowe on his maiden league appearance of the campaign.

A seven-game unbeaten run ensued, and Arteta remained in the job.

Smith Rowe would reach new heights in 2021/22, with many naively expecting a linear progression to the very top. Fitness woes, however, have meant the Englishman's past two years have been frustrating at best. But on a spring Wednesday night during the 2023/24 run-in, Smith Rowe proved he's still got something to offer Arteta's ever-ascending project.

Emile Smith Rowe proves he's still got something to give Arsenal in Luton win

Groin surgery meant 2022/23 was a write-off for the spritely creator, and the speed at which Arsenal evolved during Smith Rowe's recovery meant there was a risk of the 23-year-old being left behind.

He wasn't trusted by the boss during the second half of last season, and minutes have been sparing this term, too. Once again, Smith Rowe has endured a couple of injury setbacks, but, more often than not, he's merely been overlooked with Arteta preferring the security boasted by the Declan Rice/Jorginho axis.

Before Luton's visit, Smith Rowe had recorded a meagre two Premier League starts. His previous, away at Nottingham Forest, offered a glimpse of his vintage, but he didn't get a chance to build on any momentum he might've cultivated. He's had to be patient, but his attitude certainly hasn't wavered and Arteta was happy to include him over the likes of Fabio Vieira in Wednesday night's rotated XI.

Smith Rowe didn't necessarily provide the show-stopping sequences that he often produced during his 2021/22 pomp, but the crafty playmaker played an instrumental role in Arsenal's victory. He pinched back possession in Luton's half to set up the opening goal before attacking the left half-space and crossing for the second just before half-time.

"“I love him as a player. It’s a joy to watch him, how he moves, how he changes direction, how physical he was today without the ball. Today he helped us a lot to win the game.”"

Mikel Arteta on Smith Rowe post-match.

It was a display laden with energy and bite, with his trademark exuberance between the lines coming to the fore on occasions. The homegrown star admitted to cramping up after 50 minutes, and a lack of minutes perhaps contributed to a quieter second half showing as the contest opened up in transition.

Still, the opening 45 minutes of trademark Smith Rowe guile were more than enough to garner a warm applause when he departed proceedings in the closing stages; subsequently being named the star of a fairly forgettable encounter.

Like many of his Arsenal teammates, including Ben White and Leandro Trossard, Smith Rowe simply enjoyed himself out on the Emirates turf against an injury-hit but nonetheless tricky opponent. The performance is unlikely to spark a major alteration in Arteta's thinking during the run-in, but Smith Rowe showed that he still has something to offer this project down the stretch.