Why Mikel Arteta should turn to Emile Smith Rowe to end Arsenal's scoring slump

Emile Smith Rowe has been thrust to the periphery since start of 2022/23 season

Midfielder enjoyed prolific 2021/22 campaign

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PSV Eindhoven v Arsenal FC: Group B - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
PSV Eindhoven v Arsenal FC: Group B - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Fantasista/GettyImages

Emile Smith Rowe has been one of Arsenal’s most well-recognised Hale End graduates. He joined the club in 2010 and first appeared for the senior team in 2018 under former coach Unai Emery.

In recent years, he has emerged as an influential player for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, arguably saving the Spaniard's job at the end of 2020. However, injuries have let him down on multiple occasions and continue to be a problematic hurdle in his road. Following a knee injury in October, Smith Rowe has not been able to see enough minutes on the pitch.

While he has featured in a few games, they've often been merely cameos. The English international has travelled with the squad to Dubai for training before their Premier League match-up against Crystal Palace. He will be hoping to make a good impression and earn minutes on the pitch during the second half of the season.

Speaking to the official Arsenal website Smith Rowe said: "I’m feeling good now. I’ve been back in training for a while and it’s all good at the moment. I’ve had no problems (coming back), so now I’m not thinking about the injury at all. It’s behind me and I want to kick on by getting on the pitch.”

It's clear that Smith Rowe wants to find his place in the starting 11. However, Mikel Arteta has been hesitant on giving him minutes on the pitch which casted questions over the players future at the club.

Why Mikel Arteta should turn to Emile Smith Rowe to end Arsenal scoring slump

Emile Smith Rowe
Smith Rowe was a sharp-shooter in the 2021/22 season / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Speaking on Smith Rowe earlier in December, Arteta said: “I think he’s on the right path, the way he’s done his rehab, I haven’t seen it like he’s done it this time.”

“I think you have seen how his team-mates reacted to him being back with the team, which is a really positive thing as well. The more we can give him chances to play, the better we will be. So let’s hope that’s going to be the case,” Arteta added.

Martin Odegaard has shown that he is capable of playing a deeper role in the midfield; a #8 similar to Bernardo Silva. This is primarily due to his ability to be incredibly secure with the ball and circulate it around well, especially in the build-up phase of attack. 

In contrast, Smith Rowe has a more attacking mentality and also combines well with Saka on the right. The 23-year-old demonstrates precise ball striking and exhibits a commendable level of energy and work rate. Despite appearing somewhat lethargic in terms of dribbling, the opposite is true.

If Arteta can develop a system where Odegaard and Smith Rowe co-exist, it would add to the dynamism in attack as both the players would combine well. However, there lies only one issue here: Smith Rowe’s availability. There's no doubt that the Englishman is a quality midfielder, but he has to be able to adapt and get back to his sharpest to be able to perform at his best. 

Despite his recent malaise, it mustn't be forgotten that Smith Rowe scored ten Premier League goals during the foundation-laying 2021/22 campaign. The midfielder wouldn't merely be adding fresh legs and dynamic ball-carrying, but a genuinely efficient goalscoring threat. During that aforementioned campaign, Smith Rowe outperformed his xG by four goals. Given Arsenal's current final third inefficiency, perhaps the Englishman can inspire an uptick on this front.

Arsenal face Palace next week and will hope their reset in Dubai is the tonic they require to return to title-winning form