January Signing Will ‘Kill’ Smith Rowe

Don’t put Smith Rowe on Death Row

If you had asked me before the Chelsea game how important it was to sign a really good creative attacking player during the January window I would have said “vitally so.”

We were on a terrible run of results and, never mind not scoring, we weren’t even making chances. In some games the opposition goalie was so untroubled by our efforts that he could have set up a camp bed between the posts and had a 90 minute nap.

But then Emile Smith Rowe was brought into the team, we beat Chelsea with ease and won our next two games, with ESR playing a significant role in all three victories in, yes, a creative attacking position.

Once, in 2008, Arsene Wenger was asked about the possibility of new signings and said: “…we have done such a great job with the young players that you are concerned ‘Do we kill a young player or not by bringing another player in?'”

So where does that leave us in 2021? Do we sign a player like Isco or Hassem Aouar? And if we do, what does that do to the future career of young Emile? Do we risk “killing” him?

We have had plenty of false dawns with young ‘stars of the future’ at Arsenal, but Smith Rowe really does look to have what it takes to be a top player and is very highly regarded within the club.

If we bring in an established star it’s likely that ESR’s’ opportunities will be reduced to Europa League appearances and occasional Premier League cameos from the subs’ bench.

And then what? He won’t progress as quickly as he would with regular first team appearances and may quite possibly become disillusioned and start thinking about a move.

So my instinct – now – is to say we should not go in for a new Number 10 or central attacking midfielder in this window, although this course of action is also not without its problems.

Would it mean putting too much pressure on one young player to consistently deliver, right at the start of his senior career? What if he got a bad injury just after the window closed? In any case, wouldn’t it be good for him to have competition for his place?

As far as a potential injury scenario goes, we have other players who could (in theory) take up the No 10 role. The obvious one is Willian, but there has been nothing about his performances since he signed for Arsenal that makes you think he could do the job with anything like the energy and commitment of Smith Rowe. Saka could be tried there, but it would be a shame to remove him from the wide right attacking role where he is proving to be so productive.

So where does that leave us? With a tough call for the club and the manager.

If they buy a big name they will be accused of stifling the chances of a brilliant home grown talent; if they don’t and ESR gets injured or suffers a drop in form, they will be slaughtered for not having brought in cover.

I would take the risk, put my faith in ESR and keep my (financial) powder dry until the summer transfer window when new signings can be made in a more strategic way. It’s a risk, but one that could pay off big time. If Smith Rowe continues to progress, we might enter the summer window feeling that a new playmaker is no longer top of our priority list and that the money can be spent on improving us in other positions.

If we do decide to bring an extra face in this January, I hope it is a short term loan move for an experienced player who is not a guaranteed starter. In that regard, Isco is not a bad option, provided he doesn’t mind being second fiddle to Smith Rowe.



50 Responses to January Signing Will ‘Kill’ Smith Rowe

  1. Iain says:

    Really Rocky? I don’t disagree that ESR is our future and should be planned that way but a- he is 20 and will need a rest from time to time and b- what of he gets an injury and is out for a while – You fancy Willian to step in?

    That truly is bonkers risky planning mate- whichever way – loan or purchase one, we will need two creative players competing for a spot.. I would like to see Buenia – I believe ESR and Azeez mean we dont have to go full fat Lyon money for Aouar.

    Isco another ageing busted fluch – we have enough of them

  2. LB says:

    I read a description of Smith Rowe’s performance against WBA as

    “Subtle Magnificence”

    I really wish I had thought of that.

  3. LB says:

    As for the question: we already have another number 10 in the form of Ozil. If he is still with us at the end of this window it would be a bit daft to bring in Isco when we are already paying Ozil’s wages.

    I think the big change is that Arteta is getting more comfortable playing ESR and would continue to do so even if Ozil was back in the picture. In the same why he is starting to get the message that we are more effective and more likely to win with Martinelli playing in place of Aubamayang.

  4. LB says:

    Willian remains interesting to me; he did seem a bit more committed when he came on against WBA and he still has the energy.

    My assumption is that a few days at the pine rodeo has had a very sobering effect on him. I still think he needs a few more splinters to tone down the arrogance and ego that he has been strutting around the pitch with so far this season; if this happens, we might get to see the quality that he possesses.

    This is an Arteta signing and as such I expect him to persevere with him. Conclusion: he starts against Newcastle.

  5. RockyLives says:

    You make fair points.

    I kind of expect Willian to start against Toon but the thought does not fill me with joy. The FA Cup is our competition and I’d hate to go out of it this early, so we need a pretty strong team.

  6. RockyLives says:

    After Saturday’s Cup game we then play Palace (at home) on the following Thursday (Jan 14), then we have a four day break before we play Newcastle in the league (another home game) on the following Monday night (Jan 18).

    It’s a busy schedule but not too crazy, given that we’re not on the road.

    I’m sure some rotation will be necessary. I just hope it doesn’t interfere with the momentum we have found recently.

  7. Pete the Thirst says:

    Good points Rocky. I do worry about ESR’s injury record. Hopefully he can leave that behind, but it would be good to have options.

    I was amazed to read that Isco is 28yo. He is creative, but slow and at that age he will cost far too much.

  8. Matt says:

    Use smith Rowe as ammo to sign Buendia by playing down the need for him as he will be back up if he came. We can get him a little cheaper as not desperate and hes not as big a name but proven in the league and is one of the best players in the championship at the moment. He won’t moan or split the dressing room as its a step up. Maybe????

  9. RC78 says:

    I think ESR is in good form indeed and I wouldn’t go to the market to acquire a new player in this position for the simple reason that we have a few players that could play there already:
    – Ceballos, Willock and Ozil are the first names to come to mind but
    – Saka, Martinelli, Willian, Pepe and even Partey could also play there

    so I don’t think we should really go to the market to fill in this position.

    ESR will need to be managed carefully but I think that Ceballos could just play in that spot easily and if he moves up the pitch, our double-pivot can still be strong with AMN-Partey, El Neny-Partey, Xhaka-Partey.

    I think Arteta is getting closer to having found his starting XI and it does not bode well for a few players, especially for EPL jouts:
    – Willian and Pepe
    – Willock and Nelson
    – Mustafi
    – Auba, Luiz, AMN and Nketiah to some extent

    In the new 4231 set-up, would that be our best line-up:

    Leno – Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka? – Saka, ESR, Martinelli – Laca ?

    Would the back-up team or the UEFA team then be:

    Runnarsson – AMN, Luiz, Mari, Soares – Ceba, El Neny – Pepe, Willock/Nelson?, Willian – Auba ?

    And what if Willock goes out on loan, does Arteta bring Ozil back to the fold?

    Some so-called experienced players like Luiz, Willian and Auba would hence be used to help us lead Cup Silverware, which is not a bad option according to me…We need to let the likes of Saka, ESR and Martinelli really develop into top quality EPL players. We have some very promising academy-grown players so our investment and loyalty should be them according to me…

    Anyways – a big thank you RockyLives for all the posts. I will try to have a few out too.

    Also – Saliba is off to Nice, a free loan and Nice takes care of the wages 100%.

  10. RC78 says:

    If we want to strengthen for sure in this position, then I would say that we invest in a player that can play as a play maker (advanced or deep-laying) and I would suggest Pellegrini from AS Roma. He is a real gem and hard-working too and then if we can’t afford him, why not look at Mikel Merino from Sociedad. I also like Oyarzabal from Sociedad but he is not great at putting the defensive efforts.

  11. RC78 says:

    Someone mentioned Buendia, also a good name but he mostly plays from the wing, no?

  12. RockyLives says:

    Good points RC and I like your ‘first choice’ team.

    I wonder whether Mari has played himself into the starting line-up? He has been pretty good in the last three games and seems to work well with both Holding and Tierney.

    Also, as club captain it’s hard to see Auba being left out of the first team. I could see Arteta alternating between him and Martinelli for the left sided attacking role to some extent.

  13. RC78 says:

    And if you want to take a gamble, there is Oussama Tannane from Vitesse Arnheim or Florian Wirtz at Leverkusen.

  14. RC78 says:

    Mari has played well but has he done enough to replace Gabriel in the line-up? Holding has been impressive but he still has lapses and next to Bellerin, it is not ideal…We could end up having Gabriel, Mari as our CB pairing, 2 lefties though…

    I think you are right about Auba and Martinelli. I think Martinelli is great and I am hopeful that Auba will rediscover his scoring form soon.

    Another player that did OK lately is Xhaka – not a fan’s favourite and still has his idiotic moments but we should also mention his good performances and lately, he is been quite good. Enough to play next to Partey and ahead of Ceba / El Neny / AMN ?

  15. Enias Tom Hamuzwe says:

    We need another creative midfielder if we want to get something out of this season. ESR can’t do it alone all season.

  16. RC78 says:

    Hi Enias – who would you suggest taking on board?

  17. jjgsol says:

    I am amazed that so many posters seem happy to ignore Ozil.

    This is a player with great experience and yet you talk as though he does not exist, despite the fact that he is still at the club, for another 6 months, and the club is paying his wages.

    Something is very wrong here.

  18. RockyLives says:

    Hello Jjg

    I can’t speak for others, but I didn’t mention Ozil because the smoke signals from the club seem to indicate that he is going to be kept in exile until his contract expires and therefore is not relevant to this conversation.

    Who knows what went on between him and Arteta, or whether it’s something to do with China or whatever, but I assume most people just don’t think he’s in the club or the manager’s plans any more.

    The whole issue of the rights and wrongs of the situation has been well discussed on here in the past so it’s not like everyone’s ignoring it. It’s just that people are seeing it as a fait accompli.

  19. TotalArsenal says:

    Great Post, Rocky. I think we play three hunting nr10s behind a mobile CF. ESR is one of them, and Martinelli and Saka are the other two. They can be exchanged across the three positions, and Arteta can also play the likes of Nelson, Willian, Auba, Ceballos and even Partey and Willock in those positions. That does not we couldn’t do with buying a quality, proven nr10 type of player, or that such a purchase would hinder ESRs development. Playing three attacking miss behind the CF in a 4-2-3-1 formation is Arteta’s best managerial move.

  20. TotalArsenal says:

    * that does not MEAN
    * miss is mids

  21. RC78 says:

    Hi Jigsol – I had Ozil in my top 3 names but as Rocky mentioned, it seems Ozil is not in Arteta’s plans…

    Hi Total – the 4231 was always Arteta’s favoured formation. He likes to have the double-pivot in front of the defense plus that one player that can link up defense and attacks in the middle of his 3 attacking mids. Arteta was at his best in such a set-up too…

    The biggest questions in this set-up currently are:
    – what is our CB pairing?
    – who plays next to Partey as part of the double-pivot?
    – who plays as a LFW?
    – What do we do with Willian? Pepe? Willock?

    As for the CAM, I don’t think we need to invest but if we do, I d like us to go for
    – Option 1 – someone that can play deep and high in midfield so a player like Pellegrini or Merino
    – Option 2 – someone that is still under the radar like Tannane and Wirtz but have huge potential and are known for their dribbling and passing abilities;
    – Option 3 – someone who can play attacking midfielder but also forward like Buendia.

    It all depends on what Arteta wants to do in the second half of the season and next year…

  22. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi RC,

    Arteta may well prefer it and if so it should be here to stay. It is so much better than the 3-4-3 with Auba, Laca and Pepe waiting for the penultimate ball to be put into the net.

    Central CB pairing is a choice between Holding, Gab and Mari, and maybe Chambers and Luiz. DMs will be XhakA-Partey with back up from Ceballos and Elneny, mayby AMN. Maybe Chambers could play there as well.

  23. fred1266 says:

    Omg more signing after all the other signing work out so well

  24. RA says:

    Hi Rocky,

    Loved the Post — and made me think.

    I think that Arsene spoke English pretty well, along with six or seven other languages, but he sometimes truncated sentences because the subjective part was self explanatory, as far as he was concerned.

    So, when he said things like, “would bringing in an experienced player kill a younger player?” he was not being totally clear, because he rightly assumed we would know he did not mean that literally, but he meant was, “would it kill a younger player’s career?”

    Leaving that aside, in the context of the Emile SR’s specific skill set at #10, it would be odd if AW meant it as an all inclusive concern because, back in the day, we had room for various combinations of Cesc, Jack Wilshire and Mesut Özil playing in the same team at times.

    There are no hard and fast rules or predictable outcomes in football, and if possible I think we should get a shit-hot creative player if a suitable replacement is available.

    Good players like Jack, Mesut and Cesc were good enough to interchange positions and when Jack buggered up his ankle again it was not a disaster, when Cesc decided he wanted to join his mates back in Spain it was not a disaster, when Mesut had a temporary loss of form, it was not a disaster.

    We not only managed those problems, we were bloody good too — so bring on a classy #10, and if Emile suffers an hypothetical broken leg, it would not be a disaster; and if Saka needed a breather, it ……….. et sequentia.


    this could all be a figment of the imagination — Mr Kroenke will say we have no money for transfers, or the impact of Brexit will mean we cannot guarantee getting foreign players in the Transfer Window – and that would be a nice excuse. 😳

  25. Aaron says:

    Rocky, starting the year strong!

    So, this is an interesting post.

    Will preface it with those that have watched ESR over the years.
    What is his injury record? My belief is he has the talent, yet has not grown up physically, as any 20 year old would not have, thus injury prone right now. Could that change and he becomes like Saka? Yes, but that is a very big gamble.

    Looking at purchasing another player similar. Yes, not exact fits but supposed creator types.

    Two examples, James Rodriguez going to Everton, many wanted him and I could see why, but the guy had a hard time staying fit every year of his career, basically out 1/3 of every year, Philippe Coutinho who would have been very expensive, and he has played many games, but the amount of mileage lately might have caused him to get an Arsenal type of injury to end his season.

    If AFC goes that route, buy a younger player who can rotate with ESR. The Ozil conversation is dead in the water.

    No, you can’t just put Pepe, Danny, Willock, Nelson or Willian into that position because they don’t have the vision or mindset to play in that spot. Yes, Europa, but not the EPL, and even then the Europa easy games are long since gone.

    Side note, Danny needs to stay where he is, as evidenced by his best game ever in an AFC shirt, where that leaves him when Partey comes back is something for Mikel to figure out.

    If AFC go into the market go young, an EPL or Championship player with upside and less expensive than $72 million, not that stan the maN is going to cough it up anyway.

    And for goodness sake I hope that AFC either purchases a new toy based on a real person’s assessment, you know a scout, not some evolving staTDNA or agent based bs….

  26. Rasp says:

    Thank you Rocky, it’s a question I have asked myself a couple of times … and my answer is that it would be daft to bring in a player in January. We have ESR, he’s playing well and if he loses form or gets injured we have others who can step in. If he keeps performing at this level I’d look to the academy for a player who could step up to be an understudy, or maybe persist with Willock or even M-N in that position. If he doesn’t continue in the form we have seen these last three games we can go into the market in the summer if the right player becomes available. I noticed that Partey was more creative than I had been led to believe, so that could give us other options.

    I do not expect to see Ozil on the pitch again in an Arsenal shirt. I believe the essential problem with him is that he is not a team player. He is only prepared to do the things he excels at on the pitch which means that he disappears in phases in games where we are not on top. He loves himself more than the club and has shown that on several occasions, epitomized by his slow trudge off the pitch in the Europa final (in which he was anonymous) when we were 3 nil down. Any team player would have sprinted off in the hope that his replacement could make a difference. Also there was the blatant and ludicrous PR stunt where he suggested that he would pay gunnersaurus’ wages after he himself had refused to take a pay cut unlike other senior players.

  27. fred1266 says:

    anyone else hear we sold Saliba?

  28. Gööner In Exile says:

    So far we have made room for one non home grown player in the squad, with Kolasniac departing, it makes sense to keep home grown talent and under 21’s around to be sure to fill out squad, go crazy on signings and we will end up with more disgruntled senior pros not in the 25 (22 as we only have 5 home from over 21s).

    The simplest solution is to fill the gap left by Kola with Ozil, he will be back up for ESR. If in a pinch.

    The only other way to sign is to lose a few more non home grown and perhaps to bring in players that qualify as home grown. (Zaha, Alli?)

    I also note that Fat Sam has complained that Brexit has made signing players from the EU more tricky, those already here are fine but bringing players in who have not got enough international experience or not from a suitably high level club will not get visas.

  29. LB says:

    The rumour seems to be that Saliba is going out on loan to Nice, which is nice work if you can get it.

    Seriously, Saliba is on course as per the original plan to buy him, ok, no one saw Covid coming as strong as it has and the big preemptive purchase probably would have been delayed but as prices were sky rocketing at the time of the purchase it did make sense to take a chance and get the precocious talent under contract before the likes of City or PSG started wading in.

  30. LB says:

    Hey Fat Sam, we have a boat load of players for sale.

    Again, seriously I am hoping that he takes one or two of our players.

    And in a tiny corner of my mind I would really like Pochettino to buy Pepe.

  31. Gööner In Exile says:


    Would guess Sokratis could do well for FatSam but doesn’t help with our squad. Of course he could take Mustafi but my bet is he probably won’t.

    On Pepe, can’t help thinking it would be best for all involved, maybe this is ultimately hindsight but you do have to wonder why we signed him for the money we did when we when we had Saka coming through.

  32. RockyLives says:

    I feel a bit sorry for Pepe because it’s not his fault that that ridiculous valuation was hung round his neck.

    There’s a distinct odour of halibut around that particular deal.

  33. RC78 says:

    I was all excited when Pepe joined because of what he did in the French league. I thought he could go on and be our new Pires or have an Hazard-type of impact on our squad but so far, nothing exciting 😦

  34. RockyLives says:

    Why do you think that is RC?

    You saw him in France where by all accounts he was really exciting and promising.

    Is it just the step up in class?

  35. Akinzo says:

    It is indeed a great risk getting through the season with only ESR as the outlet to the attack.
    We’ve all seen how our team has been positively transformed with a proper no 10. ESR no doubt is proving his mettle but the question is why hasn’t most fans seen how good he is until now?
    His injury record has been scary and while we all hope he had put that behind him, it is imperative that we add another creative player. There have been talk about Aour, Brandt and several others but the question is if these players can offer anything better than what we already have?
    Why should we think it’s burdensome to have two or three quality players in certain crucial positions?
    One of the hallmarks of great squads is having several players in the creative department. Barcelona have never shied from bringing in players to complement Messi in their team and have thus shelled out a lot of quids in acquiring the services of notable players like Neymar, Suarez and Griezmann to mention but a few.
    ERS is still young and would benefit from having not just one other creative players around him to learn from and compete with.
    I have not seen so much of Buendia but he is being touted as marvelous creator but I’ve seen quite a number of fellas that can be immense addition to our team. However, I trust Arteta and Edu to make a competent choice.

  36. RC78 says:

    I feel that Pepe’s progression in terms of his decision-making and dribbling has not been great. He has been in the league now for one season and a half and played a decent amount of games. I feel like he is still playing with the handbrake on and overthinking. You look at Saka and the contrast is embarrassing for Pepe – Saka plays freely and his decision-making is impressive and so is his dribbling. I am really hoping that he is going to do great for us but as time passes, my optimism wanes…

  37. RC78 says:

    and why is Pepe stalling? I think he is not playing instinctively yet so his game is not as direct as it should/could be. He gets the ball, then pauses, then passes back or cuts inside…His best games were when he had to run to the ball and he was coming launched to his defender and he just followed his instincts whether it was too shoot or pass. When we pass the ball to him and he is not in movement, he loses some of his best qualities – being fast and tricky.

  38. LB says:

    At the moment Pepe is behind Willian in the pecking order and that takes some doing; he has got a lot to do to turn things around.

  39. fred1266 says:

    Akinzo LBG has been singing his praises about 2 years now

    Also read something early that the club always HD faith in him hence why he was never sold to RB who wanted an option to buy when he was on loan

  40. Stan Adams says:

    Afc have three good midfielders Partey,Danni and Smith Rowe and thats not enough so probably two more are needed its a long season with injuries,suspensions etc there will be times when all are needed.
    I exclude Willock,Elneney and Xhaka as i dont believe they are good enough and should be sold.

  41. LBG says:

    Thanks Fred.
    And to continue a theme, I want to feel confident that the Club will retain Balogun and Azeez, who will also be part of the Revolution.

  42. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky. I’m definitely in the camp of not getting anyone this TW unless they are of absolute guaranteed quality and guaranteed to be able to do it in the EPL.

    Those guarantees are hard to come by and there is as much chance of players we already have stepping up in the number 10 role as someone coming in and shining in it.

    I have a big question anyway in asking why the furore to buy an attacking midfielder? All this focus on needing one because we lacked creativity in midfield baffled me for 1 big reason. Namely that we weren’t playing the formation that used that role anyway.

    We’ve only switched to the formation that plays the number 10 since Chelsea so have only explored using it and who can play it for 3 games now. Clamouring for spending millions on an overseas player for a role we were not playing anyway is like wanting a Ferrari then leaving it in the garage and never driving it.

    With the 3 man CM, (in addition to ESR, and ruling out Ozil), we dont know if Nelson could provide a creative spark. Partey could also play further forward, but more importantly I, for the world if me, thought that Willian was brought in as the experienced player in that position.

    If he was proving effective in that position in addition to ESR, and with a couple of others that might step up then we have enough to try ourselves first before more huge expenditure on players that may not adapt immediately, or at all, in this league.

    Pepe posted great attacking stats before coming here. Ziyech, Havertz and Van Der Beek also did but haven’t converted their prior stats yet to this league.

    The problem with Willian though is he’s no good, right? Well can I ask when we saw him play poorly in the number 10 role in a 4231 system? I’m being pedantic because this has never been tried. He is being judged as a right footed right winger with strikers that don’t suit this, in a system that made everyone look pants, more or less.

    A player of high regard, with bags of experience, close control, and completely EPL adapted is no good, but someone from the Austrian league or a player sidelined at Madrid (and there’s normally a reason for that) are suddenly going to save our season….hmmm…not for

    If we really wanted another CM, which I don’t think we do, then could we tempt a loan deal for Kante from Chelsea say. Not sure if he’s injured but it looks more like Chelsea have overloaded themselves with CM options and they are struggling to accommodate him and he plays best slightly in front of other holding midfielders.

    My biggest worry is not CM anyway, but us who covers the attacking right side if Saka can’t play? I want to see Pepe step up but he has had lots of playing time in his best position. We are short of attacking left footers who can play the right wing forward role….if…. Pepe isn’t going to step up, and this is a far more important consideration than the ACM position.

  43. Pete the Thirst says:

    @GB we can’t buy another Chelsea player, surely. Luiz and Willian have been an unmitigated disaster and Cech wasn’t far behind them.

    If we head back a few years we signed that muppet Gallas in exchange for one of the best left backs in the world and £5 million.

    I saw rumours that we wanted Jorginho. He cost Chelsea £50 million. Might as well flush the money down the toilet. He’s slower than Xhaka, which is an achievement, and generally average.

    No more Chelsea muppets please…

  44. RC78 says:

    I think there is quite some argument suggesting that we should not buy another CAM.

  45. Rasp says:

    As LBG says Azeez is definitely one to keep. Hopefully he will get more chances in the league competitions when we’re resting first teamers.

  46. RockyLives says:

    I love this discussion. So many different points of view, all argued with conviction and articulacy.

  47. RC78 says:

    New post everyone

  48. Las says:

    Hello Rocky, very good question indeed.
    I really hope ESR is going to be our home grown Cazorla.He has the potential no doubt.
    Whichever way we move there is always a risk to take so let’s keep the winning team together.
    The best thing is that these youngsters are not only talented and quality players but also enthusiastic and they just never say die.
    My two pence is for ESR

    (Hey it is three in a row) 🙂

  49. fred1266 says:

    Remember when we use to buy Manu Muppets

  50. N9 says:

    Sell Balogun, ESR, Bukayo Saka, AMN, Nelson, Nketiah and Willock quickly to raise money to buy big names

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