Ever since Emile Smith Rowe was thrust into the starting line-up against Chelsea towards the end of 2020, Arsenal have looked a completely different team.
They’ve rattled off five wins in six games, and the England youth international was in superb form once again in his side’s Premier League win over Newcastle on Monday night.
Mikel Arteta’s side ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in the end, and whilst Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck two goals and was awarded the Man of the Match award by Sky Sports for his performance, it was Smith Rowe who arguably stole the show.
The 20-year-old was once again deployed in the number ten role, something that held even more significance given Mesut Ozil’s imminent departure to Turkish giants Fenerbahce.
And Smith Rowe was the creative hub of the Gunners as they ground Newcastle down in the first-half, and then opened them up in the second.
Aside from a glorious run and cut-back for Bukayo Saka’s goal, the Arsenal academy product also provided four key passes on the night – the most of any Gunners ace, and as much as the entire Newcastle team combined. It was his choice and timing of passing that really stood out, never trying to force things and always making sure he moved things forward for his side.
Speaking after the game, Arteta described both Saka and Smith Rowe as “extraordinary“, whilst Jamie Carragher raved about him on punditry duty for Sky Sports.
He said: “You feel like he’s always in control. He’s trying to beat a man, he beats him, but he gets the composure right too, and the night belonged to Emile Smith Rowe – I thought he was outstanding.
“He looks like someone who actually plays the right pass for the team at that time. People might watch it and not think it’s very spectacular, but when you play with players like that, who always make the right decision, it’s not about looking good, it’s about helping your team-mate, giving him the ball.”
Smith Rowe’s impact cannot be understated, and with the Gunners still seemingly in the market for a new attacking midfielder – they’ve been linked with Norwich’s Emi Buendia in recent weeks – Edu faces a major headache about how he goes about doing that.
The north London side have a real talent on their hands, and the last thing he needs for his development is someone who’s just going to come in and take minutes away from him and stunt his progress. The Gunners’ technical director has a tough decision to make in this January transfer window.