Well that’s another big ‘tick’ off the ‘to do’ list for Edu, Arteta and Arsenal this summer completed, after it was confirmed yesterday that Emile Smith Rowe has signed a new long term agreement to remain at Arsenal for the foreseeable future. And I don’t think you’ll see many disappointed Gooners with this decision this morning.
There is a long list this summer and after sorting out a pretty sensible back up left back option in Tavares, then getting Lokonga as the probably Ceballos replacement, whilst many eyes have been on transfers I think a lot of us wanted to get this news as soon as possible. Especially with the reported interest from Aston Villa. They have cash via their owners, they’re trying to make ambitious moves, but in the end the bids that they made were for nought and ESR is our man.
It’s funny to say though, because I suspect he’s always been ‘our man’. The noises from the Midlands were just that and if you think about the Or optics it kind of becomes clear. Aston Villa get their fans excited by their ambition and get to say “we tried”, which leaves their fans feeling excited, whilst Smith Rowe gets the contract he wants, and deserves, given his performances from December onwards last season.
And he does deserve it. He was a pivotal piece in our upturn in form and providing he remains fit then he will be a key player for us next season. He plays in a position in which creativity is the currency and he has that in spades. He makes intelligent runs, he drifts in to space, can beat a man, but he’s also got that turn of pace to drive at players. In his interview on the official site yesterday he said that he’s been talking to the manager about adding more goals and assists to his game and you just feel that if he manages to add that to his locker, the next evolution of this player now affectionately named ‘The Smith’ will be stratospheric, hopefully with Arsenal and for years to come.
Fitness will be key though. He himself admitted there have been ups and downs already from him and he’s had a few injuries at such a young age. The hope is that at 20 year’s old it has just been those growing pains as his body shape starts to shift and not just the signs of a player who cannot play 40+ games a season in the top flight. He’s young enough to shrug off any injury concerns by playing regularly and this season with games just once a week will hopefully give him and his body the strength and conditioning to set him up for a long and fruitful career in an Arsenal shirt.
He also spoke about the significance of the number 10 shirt and the more I think about it, the more I realise that significance, if I’m honest. Just ponder that for a second; he’s been given an iconic shirt worn by Merson, Bergkamp, van Persie, Ozil – all quality players during their time at The Arsenal. He himself referenced it yesterday in his interview. None of these guys are players that spent most of their time on the bench, or should have (I’m not opening up the Ozil wounds guys, we move on), so the statement made by the club in giving him this number is significant. To me it speaks to the club and manager effectively saying “look Emile, we believe in you, we believe in what you can become. So in giving you this number we’re elevating you. You are now one of the main men. You have the keys, we need you to drive, be one of the creative leaders of this team”. That is a responsibility he himself has admitted that he is very excited for and I too think it bodes well for the future. He’s looked very good in pre season so far and hopefully it can just get better.
I think the adopting of the number 10 shirt also makes a statement to Emile in the club’s faith in him in the wake of other transfer rumours. We’ve been linked with Maddison, Aouar, Odegaard, all of which may or may not have made the player himself wonder if he was going to get usurped. But in telling him he’s our number 10 he’s been given the peace of mind that actually, he’s the one in pole position. If we sign another creative player, that player will be to support and compliment ESR, not replace him. I think Emile’s versatility probably helps that; he can play anywhere across that line behind the striker and I do think we’ll see some shifting of positions at times. Which is why I hope we do still go out and sign another creative player, but that this player is used as Arteta used Odegaard at times last season i.e. sometimes out wide and sometimes through the middle. I do think Smith Rowe will get more games as that creative central player though and that is pleasing to think about.
With that wrapped up I suspect all eyes will now turn to Ben White and his possible/probable arrival. He’s still on holiday some people have said and isn’t expected back until 26th July – Monday – so I suspect we’ll get some more on that during the middle of the week. So until then we wait to see if Arsenal have managed to sort out any behind closed doors friendlies given they aren’t travelling to the US.
That’s yer lot from me today. Back tomorrow with some more musings of whatever comes out of today.