Arsenal face the emotional decision of letting Emile Smith Rowe leave the club this summer. Supporters largely won’t want to see the attacker go but the Gunners may be left with no choice after he became the forgotten man of Mikel Arteta’s squad.
Smith Rowe was one of Arsenal’s stand-out players last season. He scored 10 Premier League goals and earned himself a first call-up and caps for the senior England side.
But it seems he has fallen off the radar since then. Smith Rowe missed over three months of action earlier this season to undergo surgery on a long-term groin problem.
It was a necessary operation that he and the club felt was best to resolve an issue that had dogged him for years. But upon his return, Smith Rowe has been unable to earn a spot in Arteta’s side.
In fact, he is barely even coming off the bench. Arsenal were flying high at the top of the Premier League when Smith Rowe was back to full fitness.
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Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli had performed so highly that there was no way he was going to get into the team while they were still fit and available. Arteta then brought in Leandro Trossard in January to make Smith Rowe’s task even tougher.
In total, the 22-year-old has made just 10 substitute appearances in the Premier League this season. He has played just 135 minutes across those cameos.
Smith Rowe missed the entirety of the Europa League group stage and only came off the bench in one of the two legs against Sporting Lisbon in the round of 16. In all, he hasn’t started a single game in all competitions this season.
If you had said that at the beginning of the campaign, most Arsenal fans would have thought he’d have had a season-ending injury. But in truth, he has largely been fit since the start of 2023.
Smith Rowe has been named in 12 consecutive match-day squads in the league. But he has only come on as a substitute in five of them.
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He was again snubbed by Arteta in the second half of Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Chelsea at the Emirates. Perhaps Chelsea’s goal altered Arteta’s plan but to not come on when your team has a comfortable lead at home shows how far his stock has fallen.
Last month, Arteta insisted Smith Rowe is getting closer to more regular action. He said: “He’s pushing, and in football what you did a year ago, a month ago is not important, it’s about what you do now, what you do yesterday and what you do tomorrow.
“The player has to have that mindset and the contribution has to be now to the team has to make us better and to make us win games. He’s very close.”
However, he has played just 19 minutes since in Arsenal’s damaging 4-1 defeat at title rivals Manchester City. Smith Rowe loves the club that he has been at since the age of 10.
The fans would hate to see one of their own leave who has shown so much promise in his young career to date. But if discussions with Arteta do not go positively, Smith Rowe may be forced into making a gut-wrenching decision.
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