The promising Arsenal teenager capable of rivalling Nelson for a starting berth – opinion

“Don’t forget about Emile Smith Rowe” were the words muttered by Mesut Ozil over pre-season.

“We know his quality,” the German added. And who better to get praise from than a player who has won the World Cup and multiple major honours throughout his career.

For Smith Rowe, it’s been a difficult 2019. Put out on loan at RB Leipzig in January, he played just three times from the bench after sustaining a groin injury.

That same issue has kept him out of action in 2019/20 and on the theme of Ozil’s words, it might be easy to forget about him.

Certainly for Emery it felt like that at times last term. He was given game time in the Europa League, a tournament the teenager scored twice in.

A new contract was given to the academy graduate in 2018 too but when Arsenal needed wingers in the Premier League, he was a neglected figure.

Smith Rowe is still yet to play in the top-flight, something that’s perhaps rather surprising when you consider Emery’s attention to youth.

This is the manager that has seemingly turned Matteo Guendouzi into a force to be reckoned with. He won his first call-up to the senior French national team at just 20, something that illuminates the progress made since he arrived at Arsenal.

The former PSG boss, coupled with Freddie Ljungberg, is seemingly using this season as a chance to blood the youth.

Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson started the opening two matches together whilst the likes of Bukayo Saka, Robbie Burton, Eddie Nketiah and James Olayinka got opportunities in pre-season.

Smith Rowe didn’t because he was injured but he cannot be further neglected as the season pans out.

Once he returns from injury there is a reason to believe he could challenge someone like Nelson for a starting berth, producing a rivalry for two young players hoping to profit from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s loan departure.

The Armenian headed to Roma on deadline day of the European window just a day after he’d been utilised as a substitute on the flanks against Tottenham.

With the 30-year-old now out of the equation, there is a real chance for one of these young players to stake a claim.

Also at Emery’s disposal is Gabriel Martinelli who joined in the summer and scored against Colorado Rapids.

His frightening pace was in evidence when he made a late darting run from the halfway line against Fiorentina, demonstrating exactly why he was brought to London.

The Brazilian, Nelson and Saka are three players who could be utilised but seemingly now behind them in the pecking order is Smith Rowe.

His injury has played a major part in that but there was a time in 2018/19 when he might’ve been at the front of the queue instead.

The 19-year-old was mightily impressive in Europe last season, managing 2.3 shots per game according to WhoScored.

He was a regular goal threat and that’s something Arsenal didn’t have in wide areas too much last term, that’s unless Golden Boot winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played there.

In the league, no Gunners wide man scored more than six times.

Nelson netted on seven occasions last term in the Bundesliga, again a healthy return, but there were also problems he had with Julian Nagelsmann when he was left out of the side as an educational measure.

Both players it seems have witnessed some sort of neglect but it is easy to forget about the youngster who had such an impact in the group stages of the Europa League last season.

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In an interview with the club recently, Emery said: “I want Emile Smith Rowe.”

It’s something that bodes well for the Croydon-born winger but there is still hard work to be done if he’s to get into the team.

Ljungberg has been brought into the Spaniard’s coaching setup to help integrate the younger members of the team into the senior side after his work with the U23s so Smith Rowe should be well placed if you bear that in mind.

This injury was a major setback in a what had been a breakthrough campaign but with Mkhitaryan now out of the question, a return to full fitness would be timely.

His potential rivalry with Nelson and co should be something to relish.

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