There’s only one place to start this morning, given that Arteta doesn’t face the media until this afternoon, which is the disappointing news that Emile Smith Rowe has undergone surgery on that groin problem that has kept him in and out of the team all season and will now not be available until after the World Cup. It is probably a devastating blow for him and means there is another big period in his formative years of developing as a footballer in which he’ll not be able to kick on and get games. Such a shame for such a great young talent.
And he is a great young talent, because he has shown just how valuable he can be with his goals and performances last season. He has still grown in to such an important player for us even with all the injuries he’s had (and he’s had a lot). I just took a look at that injury record and at age 22 he’s already missed 42 matches between playing for Arsenal and RB Leipzig and that amounts to in season playing time of 281 not including the current lay off. That is well over a season and they say that for many players it is only when you start getting in to your early to mid 20s that you really start to become the best player you can be in that forward position that ESR plays in. But he’s effectively missed out an entire season of development over the last five years and it makes me wonder just how good he could have potentially have been if his body had stood up to the rigours of top flight elite football a bit better. We talk about how Martinelli and Saka are younger than him, but in football experience terms they are probably older by virtue of the fact that they have been able to avoid the length of injuries that ESR has had in his short career so far.
I really feel for him, as I would for any young player trying to establish himself, because these types of injuries can have profound impacts on a career at a club. Imagine, for example, that between now and when he is fit, Martinelli continues to kick on and play as well as he’s been playing, then somebody like Marquinhos – for example – is shown to be versatile on the left and as good there as he was against Zurich on the right. What happens to Emile getting his place back in the team then?
We’ve seen throughout history in football that sometimes when a player is out for a long period of time, sometimes the fates align for somebody else and they step forward. The big one that comes to mind is Mathieu Debuchy. A good player, somebody we were all excited about when he signed for Arsenal, but he picked up a long term injury early in his Arsenal career and by the time he was back and able to fight for his space, Bellerin had stepped forward and his opportunity to be Arsenal’s main man at right back was gone. Could that Happen to Smith Rowe?
Maybe, maybe not, but one of the things we will have to keep an eye on is whether or not his injury problems become a ‘thing’ and it means the club has to already start planning for a replacement. I don’t think we are there yet; he’s had a groin strain, hamstring and then this groin injury which I’ve seen people talking about as growing pains. If that’s the case then hopefully he can rehab and get back to being an important cog in the Arsenal wheel when the football resumes at the end of December.
And that might be a positive for him, that there won’t be as much football missed as there would in a regular season, because of the World Cup. We are essentially in to October now and we have six weeks of football, with the last game coming on 12th November away to Wolves. After that the league has its enforced hiatus and doesn’t return until Boxing Day in December. The club said in its statement yesterday that he is expected to return some time in December and so the hope is that as long as it could be within the first two weeks of December that he returns, it’ll almost be like the pre season he didn’t really get this summer, so he can come back for the Christmas festive schedule and then be part of the increased volume of games post the World Cup too.
Get well soon to Emile.
Without him, Arteta has some thinking to do and I suspect it’ll mean more time for Reiss Nelson than any of us thought. I mentioned him a couple of days ago and I think the ESR injury has now taken his role and importance to the squad and Arteta up a level, especially when you think about the volume of games. From my perspective I think there is simply no way that Arteta can play Martinelli on the left wing for the Bodo/Glimt games in midweek next week and the week after. We need to share those left wing minutes out and if I was in Arteta’s shoes I’d be thinking that it is Nelson and Marquinhos that are earmarked to start in both of those games. If we pick up injuries to Martinelli or Saka it will be a massive blow and so now is the time to start wrapping up in cotton wool. There’s a bit of shuffling that can happen by playing Jesus wide left and Nketiah through the middle, but that’s not our optimum team and so personally I’d rather keep on rotating players for midweek games to keep those like Martinelli fresh for the weekends.
Nelson himself, as I said a couple of days ago, needs to see this as an opportunity and step up himself. His career has stalled but sometimes you get offered a lifeline and when that happens you need to dive in to it. I really hope Reiss does because if he does and if he plays well, then it means we are getting results because in elite football you need 11 performers on the pitch at all times to get results.
I think I’ll leave it there for today. I’ll pen some match preview thoughts tomorrow, as my hands shake with all the nerves of an impending NLD.
Catch you all then.
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