Category Archives: Arsenal

Emile Smith Rowe justifies Arteta’s trust in Arsenal youngsters

Arsenal’s return to form under Mikel Arteta has coincided with the development of Emile Smith Rowe.

It all changed on Boxing Day when Gabriel tested positive for COVID19. As a result fellow Brazilian’s David Luiz and Willian had to self-isolate due to being in close contact with their colleague.

With Thomas Partey also out injured, Arteta was short of midfield options going into the game against Chelsea.

The easy option would have been to go to a midfield of Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Dani Ceballos and stick with 433. The alternative option was to play 20-year-old Emile Smith Rowe for the first time of the season in the Premier League this season and go to 4231.

Arteta went with the Smith Rowe option and – whether by luck or judgment – the decision paid off as Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-1; and it could have been 6!

Smith Rowe 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.

His link up with Bukayo Saka has transformed Arsenal.

With Saka replacing Nicholas Pepe on the right hand side and Smith Rowe replacing Willian in the middle, our play is more inventive, quicker and direct.

We re now passing round corners, finding team mates in space, and getting Saka one on one with full backs.

Arsenal’s improvement is partly to do with Arteta moving to 4231 – which gives us that extra creativity in the final 3rd – and the introduction of Smith Rowe.

The easy option would have been to put Willian straight back into the 10 role following his return, but Arteta stuck with the young Englishman whose performances did not warrant being dropped.

Arteta has come in for criticism this year for apparently “hating youth”. His critics point to the lack of game time William Saliba has had, as well as Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah.

But the truth is if a player comes in and performs well, Arteta will continue giving them a chance.

Saka is proof of this.

When you compare Saka and Nelson, the former is levels ahead of the later who has struggled to kick on.

Likewise compare Willock to Smith Rowe.

Both men have had chances over the last 18 months, but Willock has not reached the levels of Smith Rowe in the Premier League.

Finally we have Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli.

It is easy to forget that the Brazilian is still just 19-years-old. Martinelli has outperformed Nketiah in the 18 months he has been at the club – despite spending nearly 12 months out injured. He is 2 years younger!

You can not give every player that comes through Hale End the chance. Players need to show they deserve that chance on the training ground; and then back it up with performances on the pitch.

Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli have done so, Nelson, Willock & Nketiah have not.

It would not surprise me if Nelson, Willock and Nketiah are all moved on over the next 2 transfer windows.

The trio would raise Arsenal close to £60million in much needed transfer fees.

It is important not to hype up Smith Rowe too much, however. He has started just 6 Premier League games in his career.

Talk of him replacing Mesut Ozil and being the “Croydon de Bruyne” is premature. He needs to become the best Smith Rowe that he can.

But his performances will ensure he is considered for selection for every game between now and the end of the season – although he will be due to be rotated out soon to give him a little rest.

And moving forward to next season he could save the club millions.

Talk was that Arsenal were looking to sign both Julian Brandt and Emi Buendía to replace Ozil; giving Arteta 2 options at 10.

What Smith Rowe has done through his performances is force his way into the equation. We now no longer need 2 10s. Smith Rowe can fill one of the roles. Most likely providing cover for a more senior, developed option.

What Smith Rowe’s performances does do is highlight even more how much of a bad transfer Willian is.

Willian and Smith Rowe are basically the same player. Both capable of playing anywhere in the 3 behind a striker as well as deeper.

Football and transfers are easy in hindsight, and hindsight shows that we should not have given a 3-year deal to Willian with Smith Rowe waiting in the wings.

The flip side to that is Smith Rowe had been out on loan and then injured over pre-season, so maybe Arteta had just not seen enough of him?

His development is going to be exiting to watch.


Match Report: Arsenal 3 – 0 Newcastle

Arsenal (0) 3 Newcastle United (0) 0

Premier League

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Monday, 18th January 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Cédric Soares, Rob Holding, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka; Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Magalhães, Willian Borges da Silva, Alex Rúnarsson, Nicolas Pépé, Mohamed Elneny, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli.

Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (49 mins, 76 mins), Bukayo Saka (60 mins)

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 66%

Referee: David Coote

Assistant Referees: Marc Perry, Nick Hopton

Fourth Official: Graham Scott

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Peter Bankes; AVAR Sian Massey-Ellis

Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions

For tonight’s match against Newcastle United, which is the second in nine days of course, Kieran Tierney is back in the team after finding out that his calf injury was not as serious as was once thought, thankfully, and Thomas Partey gets a start in midfield alongside Granit Xhaka in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Sadly, Pablo Marí has a calf issue and will not play this evening, and it’s good to see Cédric Soares getting a start at right-back. Let’s go!

Both sides started strongly here at the Emirates tonight, with firm tackles going in from both sides. Slowly Arsenal started to gain control of possession though, as we managed to wrestle the game from the visitors in the first quarter of an hour or so. The general tempo of the match was quick, and both teams were doing their best to contain the other one. In a move which you would think it would be easier to score than to miss, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the upright of the Newcastle goal from a tight angle after some fabulous link play by Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka, and for the next ten minutes or so, we utterly dominated possession. The distribution skills of Thomas Partey were magnificent tonight, as a lot of our forays on the Magpies’ goal often started from him. The visitors are constantly and consistently under massive pressure from us, and although they are defending well, and have the odd breakaway, Arsenal are by far and away the better team out there this evening, but if they don’t convert all this effort into goals, then all this wonderful play could be in vain. Emile Smith-Rowe is constantly pushing and probing the Newcastle United defenders, and Kieran Tierney is doing such wonderful work out on the left, but despite all this and more, we are struggling to break the visitors down this evening. Just before half-time, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross took a really awkward deflection off Emil Krafth and almost squeezed in at the near post, but goalkeeper Karl Darlow did well to get across and turn it around the post for an Arsenal corner. David Luiz headed the resulting ball over the bar, just seconds before referee David Coote blew the whistle to end the first half.

The second half started just as the first one ended with immense pressure on the Newcastle goal; Alexandre Lacazette struck a hard, low shot through four defenders, only for Karl Darlow to tip it around the post. At last, four minutes after the restart, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran onto a long ball from Thomas Partey, ran forty yards, completely turned Emil Krafth inside out and smashed the ball into the net to bag the opening goal of the evening. The goal lifted our confidence, and diminished theirs somewhat. Although the Magpies were having their chances to score (with namely Andy Carroll blasting wild shots hither and thither), the better chances were by far ours. Easily. The point is, can they grab a second goal to cement things? Of course they can! On the hour, Emile Smith-Rowe ripped down the left-wing, completely skinned Emil Krafth, crossed the ball into the penalty area, to find young Bukayo Saka, who simply slotted the ball into the net. And still we came forward for more; Emile Smith-Rowe, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka were shooting at will, hunting in packs for that oh-so elusive third goal. Mohamed Elneny replaced an exhausted Thomas Partey after sixty-seven minutes, and we just kept going and going. The Magpies looked shattered and broken now, and we appeared to just be able to push the ball around at our leisure. Bukayo Saka was easily finding space, as was Emile Smith-Rowe, and with fourteen minutes remaining, Cédric Soares took the ball to the byline, crossed the ball just as it looked as if it was going over the line, for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to grab his second of the night, and our third. The was the last kick of the ball tonight for our two-goal man; a couple of minutes later, Willian replaced him, and the Arsenal train rumbled on. Emith Smith-Rowe made way for Gabriel Martinelli with eight minutes remaining, and almost immediately our last substitute of the night got involved in the action; he tried to keep the ball in play on the touchline and he ended up getting an elbow to the chest from Jamaal Lascelles. No harm done, as he was running around and getting into the thick of it just seconds later. In the three minutes’ injury time, we did not let up on the visitors, we just kept going right up until the final whistle.

Our players won a very important three points for themselves tonight. They played and played until Newcastle United were ground down and dazed, and it was always thought that they could have scored more, but hey, whose complaining? So many great performances out there tonight, but just to pick out one would be unfair, but not to mention the work of Emile Smith-Rowe in this match would be churlish somehow. This gifted young man was everywhere tonight, and caused the visitors headaches up and down the pitch, backwards and forwards, he had the Novocastrians in his pocket.And he’s not even twenty-one yet, folks. 

Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Southampton or Shrewsbury Town at either St. Mary’s Stadium or the New Meadow on Saturday, 23rd January at 12.15pm (FA Cup). Victoria Concordia Crescit.


Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.

Players are just passengers on a train

Football players are just passengers on a train.

For most clubs, that train has been running for well over a century. It has had ups and downs. Gone through dark tunnels and reached the top of the mountain. The train never stops (except for war and disease).

A player gets on the train. His journey might last for 6 months (a loan deal). It might span 3 decades. It might be the only train he ever gets on. He might get on many trains during his career.

Some might even return to the train once they retire from playing, to manage the train.

But when the players (or manager) leaves; the train does not stop. It keeps going. It picks up new passengers and the journey continues. Even owners are just passengers. They get off when they sell.

Someone like Mesut Ozil’s train journey on the Arsenal Express has lasted 7 and a half years. He got on a train that had been running for 127 years already. He has been on the train for just under 6% of its running time.

Whilst Ozil has now got off the train, the train is still running. Other passengers still on their journey. New passengers will jump on soon. Others are nearing their stop.

Arsenal have seen legendary passengers get off the train before.

From Liam Brady to Rocky Rocastle. Patrick Vieira to Thierry Henry. All got off the train and jumped on a new one, heading to a different destination.

For very few players, the likes of Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp, the Arsenal Express is the final journey. There final destination is retirement.

And even when these great passengers get off the train, it continues to chug on.

The longest serving passengers on the train are those at the back. The fans.

Fans are often treated like 3rd class passengers by train owners. They are charged high prices for the worst seats. They do not get the luxury that players get up top. But it is the fans that keep the train running.

Whilst there are fans on the train, the train will keep running. Even if an owner spends all the money, asset strips the train, the fans will find a way to keep it on the tracks.

Ozil’s Arsenal journey is over, but for fans the journey only ends with death. It is not their choice to get off.

You see, the train is so much bigger than those passengers up in first class. A player gets off. The train continues. A player retires. The train continues.

The train will reach the top of the mountain again in the future, but will go through a lot more dark tunnels.

As the years go by, former passengers grow. They become less important. They are no longer on the same journey. Their journey has ended.

For fans, the journey continues…