Emile Smith Rowe was in fine form prior to the signing of Martin Odergaard.
Many fans and Martin Keown criticised Mikel Artera for shunting the Smite Rowe out of the side to make space for the loanee.
Keown’s justification for criticism was that Arteta should not be “using key games to blood a youngster, a project. He should play his senior players”. This of course ignored the fact that Odergaard is older and more experienced then Smith Rowe. It really highlights how poor a pundit Keown has become.
Odergaard has had a solid start to his time at Arsenal. But it is important that we do not go over the top in praise and we remember that he is only on loan from Real Madrid. There is a long way to go before we can talk about him being a long term Mesut Ozil replacement.
So say Odergaard does join permanently. What does that mean for the future and for Smith Rowe specifically?
The Sorcerer and His Apprentice
Are Arsenal fans the only supporters in the world that are concerned about having 2 good players in the same position? The only fans who are concerned about signing a player that improves us because he might stunt the growth of a younger player?
We can easily accommodate Odergaard and Smith Rowe in the squad, giving us 2 options at 10.
You have Odergaard as first choice, and then Smith Rowe as his back up.
With Arsenal consistently playing around 50 games a season, it allows us to rest and rotate where required.
Smith Rowe has a niggly injury record, so it would be dangerous to have him as the only option at 10.
Signing Odergard alongside Smith Rowe gives us squad depth and encourages internal competition which would hopefully drive both players to become even better.
In recent weeks, we have seen Odergaard play in the middle and Smith Rowe play on the wing – something which Keown has also criticised Arteta for. But playing this way makes a lot of sense.
The Willian signing last summer got a lot of people asking “why” and “what is the point” but it also gave a clue with what Arteta wanted to do (but just did not have the players).
Kieran Tierney is such an attacking threat on the left hand side that you want a left winger who is comfortable dropping inside, dragging the opponents full back in, and giving Tierney the space to get round the outside.
When Bukayo Saka is on the left, Arsenal are easier to defend against as Saka and Tierney go looking for the same space.
Playing a right footed “10” on the left of midfield gives Tierney the space he wants.
What it then also does is create an overload in the middle of the park
Your left winger drops inside to give the full back space, and suddenly Arsenal have two 10s causing havoc centrally.
It is similar to how we played when we had Mesut Ozil, Arron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez.
Ozil would often play right wing, with Ramsey in the middle.
Mesut would then drop inside giving Hector Bellerin the space to run into and overload the opponents centrally. That would in turn free up space on the other side of the pitch for Alexis Sanchez to operate in.
The invincibles also did similar with Robert Pires.
Pires would often drop inside alongside Dennis Bergkamp. This move created space for Ashley Cole to exploit.
So we could easily play Odergaard in the middle Smith Rowe outside him, dropping inside.
With Saka doing similar on the right hand side, suddenly we have 3 creative outlets centrally, with the width provided by the full backs.
And it looks a little something like this:
If Arsenal do sign Odergaard, and with the emergence of Smith Rowe, Edu and Artera will still look to sign someone on the left hand side.
With Saka, Pepe, Smith Rowe, Odergaard and Willian, Arsenal have 5 options for the 3 positions behind the striker. We could do with a 6th.
We need to find a similar Odergaard level signing on that left hand side so that we can return to the “sorcerer and apprentice” situation described above.
You then have Saka, Odergaard and a new left winger (who drops inside), with Emith Rowe then being cover and competition at both 10 and outside. With Willian being 6th choice.
Plenty to think about during the international break…