When David Ornstein dropped his latest Ornbomb (see below) about how Arsenal had no intention of selling Emile Smith Rowe this summer, there were a fair few members of the online community that I follow who expressed a wee bit of surprise. Positive surprise, but surprise nonetheless. He’s a popular player, he’s one of our Hale End Graduates, he was so integral to us last season and he’s a guy who seems to be popular enough in the dressing room.
🚨 Arsenal have no intention of letting Emile Smith Rowe depart this summer. 22yo contracted until 2026 + important part of #AFC plans. After injury-hit campaign, hope is he shines at #U21EURO & in pre-season before big 23/24. W/ @ArtdeRoche @TheAthleticFC https://t.co/sRSk7zzE6E
— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) May 30, 2023
But it’s for those reasons, plus a few more I suspect, that the confirmation that the club want to keep him should probably not be seen as much of a surprise as we all thought. Firstly I think we should all acknowledge that although Ornstein is an extremely reliable source for Arsenal news, this is still speculation at the moment. The club aren’t going to come out and sound a Simpsons style “Everything’s ok” alarm on a player, of course, but this is probably one of those instances where they’re more than happy for Ornstein to act as a de facto club mouthpiece I suspect.
It also doesn’t mean that Arsenal really won’t sell. I mean, if somebody came in and offered £60-£70million for the player, they’d probably have a discussion at London Colney about what a potential deal could look like. There are also those that say that the club would hardly sound an alert to suitors by getting Ornstein to say he’s available for transfer over the summer. It would de-value him in the market and lord knows, we’ve been crap enough sellers as it is over the last few years, so weakening our hand after a season in which we should have made huge strides in terms of our reputation and ability to move players on for better fees.
But I don’t think there are an Machiavellian plots at play in this instance. And as JJ mentioned on our End of Season Pod on Monday night, we do indeed have precedent with a situation like ESR’s right now. The season before last it was Martinelli with whom sections of the fanbase thought that Arteta ‘doesn’t fancy him’ after he returned from long term injury. Arteta was asked about it in a few press conferences I think. But he always remained steadfast in his response; there was even one time I seem to recall where he said something like “I love Martinelli more than you do”. That has proven true this season as he played the Brazilian as much as he possibly could. So why couldn’t that be the case for ESR next season?
The question would remain – “where does he play?” and I think it is a valid one. But I know a fair few Arsenal fans who have said that with his profile and style of play, he could also play as a number eight in an Arteta team. He’s good on the ball, he’s a dribbler, he has end product as evidenced the season before the one just gone, plus he’s a late runner in to the box too. And if the worst-kept-secret at Arsenal does indeed become confirmed in the coming weeks (Xhaka leaving), then there is a space that has opened up for him to step up and prove he cam become a regular.
His challenge will be to stay fit though. His injury at the beginning of the season, then subsequent surgery, cost him best part of half a season. Thereafter the club were cautious on his return and I suspect that is a big factor as to why Arteta has used him so sparingly for the remainder of this season. What we took to mean a lack of belief was probably merely xthe desire to ensure any residual problems in his legs were fully eradicated. Let’s not forget that this is a guy who has had injury problems dating right back to when he first broke in to the team. He missed a chunk of a loan spell at RB Leipzig because of injury, he had a couple of spells out at Huddersfield I believe, then we have seen him pick up injuries whilst he has been a first team regular for us. Maybe Arteta’s selection decisions this season were based on him trying to build him up so that he has a proper pre season this summer, he comes back to the squad fit and ready to fire, so that the manager can rely on him come August.
And if that is the case, I think we’d all be happy.
Does it impact our decision making in the market? I’m not sure. A lot of the talk I’ve read about from our fans has been that we should get both Rice and Caicedo for the number six and number eight positions, but I would be stunned if we truly went after both. I don’t buy the noises about Thomas Partey being off, not if Xhaka is going too, as you are losing a lot of experience, so if Partey stays and ESR is earmarked for the number eight position, are we really going to blow the best part of £160 – £170million on two players? I mean, sure, they are great players and have the kind of versatility that Arteta loves, but I just can’t see it myself and I think little pieces of the puzzle like ESR staying and being seen as an important part of next seasons plans, shows that I think there might not be as much root and branch change as some of us Arsenal fans are expecting.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how the coming couple of months shakes out. Arsenal know they need to upgrade in some areas, Arteta has recently talked up getting more out of his existing players, but we all know that if we truly want to compete on multiple fronts and stand a chance of getting ourselves in the mix for the trophies at the end of the season, we need to do more externally as well as see improvements in the younger players of the existing squad.
Interesting times ahead.
Catch you all tomorrow.