The Gunners open the 2022/23 campaign with a trip to Selhurst Park as top-flight football makes a return but they will do so without the services of attacking midfielder Emile Smith Rowe, who has been ruled out through injury.
According to the Evening Standard, the 22-year-old has struggled with fitness throughout pre-season and missed last weekend’s final friendly with a groin problem.
He could be fit in time for their first home game of the season against Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium next week.
“It’s just my groin at the moment, I am getting a bit of pain in there. It’s getting better and I should be back soon,” Smith Rowe told Standard Sport.
This will come as a gutting blow to manager Mikel Arteta as he will want to start the new season off in the best way possible, especially after last season’s theatrics.
Indeed, the Gunners endured a nightmare beginning to the 2021/22 campaign as they were beaten by Brentford; that was on a Friday, away from home, in front of the lights and cameras, too.
Arsenal have enjoyed a successful off-season, going unbeaten in their pre-season matches and sealing some impressive bits of business off the pitch, namely Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from reigning champions Manchester City.
But the north London giants spent big last summer, only to start the season off in disastrous fashion and their chances of avoiding a repeat have been dented in the absence of Smith Rowe, who is a crucial cog in Arteta’s system.
Not only does he offer versatility to play anywhere in the final third but he’s also a huge threat. Only Bukayo Saka (11) scored more goals in the Premier League last season, as per WhoScored.
Meanwhile, when compared to other attacking midfielders and wingers in the top-flight last term, Smith Rowe ranks favourable, sitting within the top 2% for shots on target, the top 4% for pass completion and the top 9% for successful dribbles, via FBref, which merely highlights his influence in attack.
That is why Arteta will surely be gutted to not have the England international available on Friday, though there is some hope that he can be involved in the coming weeks.