Yesterday we spoke a little about Emile Smith Rowe’s development, and continuing down that line, I would like to expand on some thoughts.
Smith Rowe has been fantastic since coming into the Arsenal team against Chelsea on Boxing Day.
He has now started the last 5 league games in row, with Arsenal winning 4. He also came off the bench to score the winner against Newcastle in the FA Cup.
But it is important that we do not overhype him.
Despite his performances, we should be careful not to label him as the successor to Mesut Ozil as Arsenal’s number 10 or “the next Kevin de Bruyne”.
Ozil was a world class performer for Arsenal – albeit he had not performed to that level for a few years. Whilst Smith Rowe is a young kid with half a dozen Premier League starts to his name.
What Edu, Mikel Arteta and the recruitment team need to do is add an experienced head alongside Smith Rowe in the squad – and no, I am not talking about Willian “experience”.
I had a blog in my drafts about how Arsenal should be looking to sign both Julian Brandt and Emi Buendía to replace Ozil; giving Arteta 2 options at 10.
The saving in Ozil’s wages along would be enough to finance a move for both layers, covering salaries and amortised transfer fees.
That blog is now scrapped as I believe Smith Rowe has shown enough that he should be back up 10 next season.
This would not only save Arsenal money but would also save us a non-home grown player squad space. Smith Rowe is home grown, Brandt and Buendía not.
So we have Smith Rowe as one option as 10 and go out and sign either Brandt or Buendía (not both) to be the senior man.
This is not saying that Smith Rowe is not good enough; more that at 20, he still needs to improve to reach the level of Ozil. He is not yet at the level of Brandt.
My feeling is it should be Brandt ahead of Buendía. The German is the superior player.
This would then give Arteta the option of Brandt or Smith Rowe as a 10.
What is exciting about both (and Buendía) is their versatility. All 3 men can play in the middle, left or right of the 3.
One of Ozil’s great attributes was his ability to drift across the pitch and find space. He did not just stay central and would be a creative outlet throughout the final 3rd.
When he drifted to the wide positions, it then gave space in the middle for Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla or Alexis Sanchez to fill. This concept is something that Arteta needs to build on.
The 3 behind the striker should be interchangeable. All capable of playing left, right and centre. That way it creates fluidity behind the leading striker and allows us to create 2 or even 3 on ones outwide.
We have already seen the benefit when Smith Rowe drifts left, teaming up with Kieran Tierney and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to overload that side. Likewise with Saka and Bellerin on the right.
A fluid 3 behind a striker also makes us a lot harder to defend.
Saka, for example, has very different attributes to Brandt. A full back would have to switch up his game plan as the two interchange positions.
I am sure one of the reasons Willian was signed was due to his versatility behind the front man.
Smith Rowe is equally as versatile as Willian. His performances do make you further question why we gave the Brazilian a 3 year deal.
My feeling is Arteta had just not seen enough of Smith Rowe – he was out on loan for the 2nd half of last season and he started this season with a shoulder injury.
Smith Rowe might not yet be ready to fill Ozil’s shoes, but he has shown that he has a future at Arsenal and will be a key member of the first team squad for the next 18 months.
We just need to add a senior man alongside him.
Brandt rather than Buendía.