Aston Villa have suffered a major blow in their pursuit of Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe.
The Villans have already seen separate bids of £25 million and £30m turned down by the north London outfit for their academy graduate this summer, but their hopes of striking a deal appear to be all but over.
That’s after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was adamant that Smith Rowe will be staying at the club following their pre-season defeat to Hibernian.
“Without a question. Yes. He will stay here. 100%,” stated the Spanish tactician.
Villa enjoyed a fabulous campaign in 2020/21, finishing in 11th position in the Premier League standings despite club captain Jack Grealish suffering a serious injury, limiting him to 26 top-flight appearances.
The Midlands outfit are keen to build on their impressive showing last season, already adding former Norwich City ace Emi Buendia to their ranks in a big-money deal.
Smith Rowe had been identified as Dean Smith’s next priority signing, but the England Under-21 international appears set to remain at the Emirates Stadium for the foreseeable future.
Arteta’s latest comments will surely leave Smith feeling gutted after missing out on one of the nation’s most promising young talents, although Arsenal’s determination to keep hold of the highly-rated gem should come as no surprise.
After a string of injuries sidelined several star names in the Gunners’ first-team squad, Smith Rowe was handed his opportunity to impress alongside fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka last term, and he certainly made the most of the opening.
“I know what they are capable of doing. They are developing really well, and that’s a merit to them, a merit for their teammates and everybody that is involved to try to support them and protect them as well,” claimed Arteta.
“But the performances that they are putting in are extraordinary.”
Arsenal’s stance leaves Villa back at square one in their mission to bolster Dean Smith’s options, although attempting to pull off a deal for Smith Rowe was always going to be ambitious.