Smith Rowe: the Jewel in Arsenal’s (Slightly Battered) Crown

All hail the Beast of Thornton Heath

I shall resist the urge to make jokes about Willian getting his first Arsenal goal at a point in the season where it does not matter one tiny, insignificant, flying fluck.

In a comfortable win over already-doomed West Brom (a win which saw Fat Sam relegated for the first time in his career) it was the quality of some of our young players that stood out, not for the first time this season.

Saka, thrust back into the left back role, terrorised the right side of the Baggie’s defence; Martinelli tried hard without finding space to make a huge impact and Emile Smith Rowe pulled the strings.

I have felt for some time that ESR has the highest potential ceiling out of a crop of very high-flying youngsters who do great credit to the Hale End academy that has shaped them.

This is Smith Rowe’s first half-season of regular football and, at just 20, he already displays such a wonderful array of talents that I am convinced he will end up being the most valuable out of all that group of young stars.

His first touch is sublime, easily the best in the current Arsenal squad and on a level with that of Santi Cazorla and Pires. It’s not just that he can bring the ball under control so elegantly and comfortably, it’s that he does so with attacking intent, controlling it in such a way that the very act of control pivots him away from a defender or into space, or allows him to ‘turn the corner’ for a give-and-go. I could watch it all day.

Then there’s his passing, which is invariably forward-minded, incisive and intelligent. He knows where to be on the pitch and where to put the ball for his team mates.

He is fast, tireless and getting stronger as the season progresses.

The one thing that can take a while to develop with talented young attacking midfielders is the goalscoring touch and, in that regard, ESR is no exception: yesterday was his first league goal in an Arsenal shirt. But the power and technique with which he hammered home that volleyed goal against West Brom suggests there is a lot more to come.

Next season (if he doesn’t have the all-too-common ‘second season dip’ experienced by a lot of young breakthrough players) I think we can expect ESR to pitch in with 10 to 15 goals for us.

I know some will say that Saka or Martinelli are better prospects and they might be right. But I see Saka as an outstanding example of a type of player we know well – a fast, skilful, intelligent wide attacker who can make and score goals: a Marwood, a Limpar or a Ljungberg. He can and should be a massive asset moving forward.

Martinelli also has a high ceiling, even though he has struggled with form and injuries this season. I base my high hopes for the Brazilian on the fearless and direct approach he showed in our last campaign, as well as his hunger to get on the scoresheet. However, it seems it’s taking a while for his first touch to return and he really needs to nail that skill to progress at the top level. Nevertheless, you could see him – if he develops properly – in the mould of a Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Smith Rowe can be the player who brings the magic: the wizard who does things no-one expects, who cuts open defences with impossible passes and has eyes in the back of his head. He can be a De Bruyne, a Le Tissier, a Merson, a Brady.

After that hymn of praise for the young man I don’t want to spend too much time on yesterday’s performance. We looked in control for most of the game apart from a 15 minute spell after the Baggies pulled a goal back. It can’t have been easy for the lads to fire themselves up after the disappointment of last Thursday so they should be commended for the way they went about their business.

Player Ratings

Leno – 7

No mistakes, some good saves and commanded his box well. The best outing from Leno for some time.

Chambers – 7

I’m really enjoying this run of form from CC, even though I still don’t see him as a RB. I would like to see him given a run at CB or DM. He’s a decent footballer and should be part of our plans moving forward.

Holding – 6.5

Solid.

Gabriel – 6.5

Solid and looked comfortable on the ball (which is not always the case).

Ceballos – 6.5

Dani is a limited player and very one-footed, but he did some good work here, particularly in the first half.

Elneny – 6.5

Goes about his work unfussily and seriously. I know he’s not a fan favourite but he’s a decent squad player.

Willian – 6

Finally got a goal when (in both season terms and game terms) it didn’t really matter. Did nothing to suggest he should be in N5 next season. Let’s hope someone in the MLS is prepared to take him.

Pepe – 7

Decent performance and a cracking goal. Without the price tag, Pepe would look like a reasonable attacking option worth keeping next season.

Saka – 7.5

Excellent, dynamic performance. Got to the byline and cut the ball back numerous times, including for ESR’s goal. A huge talent.

Smith Rowe – 8 (MoTM)

I think I’ve said enough in the paragraphs above…

Martinelli – 5

Gabi just could not get into the game. I don’t know whether it was just the shape the game took or whether he needs to work on his positioning and runs. Any ideas?

Subs

Lacazette – 6.5

Made a difference in the later stages, winning the ball in midfield several times and trying to make stuff happen.

Tierney – 6

Got some more miles in the tank as he makes his way back from injury.

Partey – 6

Looked fine and managed not to give the ball away in dangerous areas as he did way too often against Villareal.

RockyLives

34 Responses to Smith Rowe: the Jewel in Arsenal’s (Slightly Battered) Crown

  1. RC78 says:

    Fully agree with all Rocky! Thanks for the post.

    Shall we give a 7.5 to Saka too?

  2. RockyLives says:

    Whoops – give me a minute 😳

  3. RockyLives says:

    Fixed – thanks for spotting the omission RC.

  4. Pete the Thirst says:

    ESR is a great prospect. Along with Saka he is the future of the team.

    A decent performance apart from letting the West Brom guy run 40 yards without a challenge to score. Reminded me of the mid/late Wenger (2.1) years where players were told not to tackle.

  5. LBG says:

    Thanks Rocky
    No second season dips for our young starlets. To infinity and beyond.
    Left some Birthday wishes on end of last post if someone could move my comment over for today.

  6. RockyLives says:

    LBG says:
    May 10, 2021 at 9:56 am (Edit)
    Happy Birthday to two legends. DB10 – 52 years of age. And Sylvain Wiltord -47 years, and although not quite in Dennis’ league, a legend for that goal.

  7. RockyLives says:

    Indeed LBG – Happy Birthday to both.

    Wiltord was always overshadowed by the quality of some of the payers around him (Henry, Bergkamp, Pires) but he was a very decent back-up option as striker.

    And that goal at Old Trafford will live for ever in the memory for me (I was lucky enough to be there).

  8. RC78 says:

    We need more Wiltords in our team. Guys that work hard and can be decisive when needed when coming off the bench.

  9. LBG says:

    Ozil
    ” Smith-Rowe has been the difference in the last two games. Proof that playing with a No 10 can still work in football these days”.
    Mesut, if you had run around half as much as Emile does in the last couple of years, you too would still be gracing the HOF!

  10. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky, I remember looking at ESR 2-3 years back before he went in a series of loan spells and thinking how similar to De Bruyne he looked in playing style. He will be a huge player for us but we must now start heading back to the top table or he won’t be here in a season or two.

    Another one I will stick my neck out for is Charlie Patino. I think he will soon be making us salivate with his potential once we see him a couple of times around the 1st team, hopefully next season.

    He is uncannily Phil Foden like with a sprinkling of Jack Wilshere, the earlier version. I cant wait for him to get his first outing.

    Another thing Rocky is regarding Saka. This kid will give you a performance wherever he is played. When he was operating on the left earlier this season I didn’t like it. Not because he wasnt functioning there, he was still one of our best players regardless, but because he was wasted there in terms of his true value.

    I touted the attacking right side for him but also felt he could operate centrally. I still feel believe this and possibly think it may even be a better fit.

    Pepe has stepped up and is a very viable 1st 11 option on the right now. Being realistic I think certain players are off the market for us next season without European football. That likely includes Odegaard for instance.

    I think our recruitment needs to be smart and ideally players that are already EPL ready without need for adaptation. It is all about the assault on the EPL next season and top overseas players that need to adapt are for the season after.

    Rather than looking for another attacking central player why don’t we just shape that around ESr and Saka as a partnership and get another left footed attacker from within the English league’s who can play on the right side or down the middle.

    Raphinha at Leeds looks promising. Traore at Wolves is due a bigger club, but also I can’t have been the only one impressed by Perreira yesterday. One of those players may be all we need to add to our attack.

  11. fred1266 says:

    For those who missed

  12. RockyLives says:

    Thanks Fred

  13. LBG says:

    Interesting GoonerB but do you believe we currently need any new attacking players?
    Give Balogun, Martinelli, perhaps Willock and Nelson a chance. Where will Azeez “slot in”? If Partey gets a new driving hardman as partner, could Azeez be our new central No 8 creator?
    I want our current attacking players to convert their talent into more goals. For anyone in red and white to then fight to the death to hold on to leads. To flay alive anyone in the dressing room who shrugs and does not spit blood/ breathe fire in agreement with that demand from his team mates.
    More important than life itself….of course it is!

  14. LBG says:

    PS
    Then there is Charlie Patino.

  15. RC78 says:

    We need players that can drive the ball forward and what about a very unlikely combination in midfield if we go for a 433:

    Saka, Partey, ESR
    Pepe, Laca, Martinelli

    Both Saka and ESR have the engine to defend and bring the ball forward…Saka is super smart and can basically play anywhere so I think in a midfield 3 with Partey and ESR, it could work out or at least, I d love to see it experimented

  16. RC78 says:

    There are three players from Championship that look interesting:
    – Max Aarons from Norwich who could well kick-out Bellerin from our squad and compete at RB
    – Buendia from Norwich who could be quite an upgrade from Willian..
    – Toney from Brentford who may be better than Nketiah…

  17. LBG says:

    RC
    Aarons and Bissouma for me. Nothing else, because we have got it!

  18. fred1266 says:

    Rc78 did you see BuendiA last season

    And saying he is an upgrade on willian isn’t much am sure LBG will be better than willian

  19. fred1266 says:

    Ok I signing out for the season, all this talk about who we should sign bla blah blah blah

    Every single player we signed recently has been trash

    If we had just had faith in our youngster wouldn’t have wasted all that money when we bought pepe saka was showing promising sign

    When we got willian pepe ended the season And should have Been given a chance

    Willock should have been given the chance over ceballos

    Now Toney and BuendiA jeez but yet still u want balogun etc to be the future,

  20. RC78 says:

    Hi Fred – I think we need upgrades for sure and in any case, some players are going to have to pack their bags and go, I am hoping to see Leno, Luiz, Ceballos, Odegaard, Willian and Nketiah go…

    I think for sure some of our loanees won’t come back but we still need to have a group of 27 players I would say, including 3 GKs so we need to recruit.

    Buendia was not bad last year – was he? 1 goal, 6 assists, 3 dribbles per game, and 2 tackles per game…For sure he has the engine needed to play in the EPL…I am not saying as an automatic starter but he would be a good squad player, no??

  21. LBG says:

    Fred
    A long time ago, I would certainly had more heart!

  22. GoonerB says:

    LBG, I’m more or less with you in not over recruiting and utilising what we already have more effectively. I would still like to see Willock in the squad and I still feel Nelson is deserving of being given a go even if he is not a 1st 11 right now.

    However I do feel a couple of recruits are needed but would go for players that have been proving themselves either in the EPL, championship or top end of the Scottish league.

    Like you I would like to see Chambers tried out at the base of our midfield and if he looks decent there we can move forwards with him, Partey and Azeez.

    One recruit we would then need is another RB. Someone like Aaron’s with big potential who can compete with the more experienced Soares would be a good move.

    We need back up at LB. Would like to try Bola and would go with that if decent but if not we need to recruit again.

    I would definitely like to see us go with an attacking quartet behind the number 9 and looking at ESR, Saka, Martinelli, Pepe, Willock and Nelson, I feel there is room for another EPL ready left footer to cover either the right side or the central right position.

    That would be 7 squad options for 4 positions and Balogun wouldn’t be affected by that as he would be competing with (currently) Auba and Laca.

  23. LBG says:

    Finding the criticism of a 19year old Martinelli not being immediately a star at central striker, incredible.
    How was Henry as a centre forward at the start, or Theo Walcott, or Francis, fox in the box, Jeffers. Eddie has smashed it at U23 level, but Premier League?
    Whilst this harsh criticism is coming largely from other brainless sites, we are not blameless.
    Give him a bit of a break and watch him go from Pires, the dud, in his first season, to the whole squad bowing down to him in the double season.

  24. LBG says:

    GoonerB
    Me too ( not in that way!) surprised Bola has not been tried, and some others in the know (apparently), say he will leave in the Summer. Why was he brought back early at Christmas and then not used at all when we had to put up with X?

  25. fred1266 says:

    Rc78 do we really need more buys next season no Europe why not play the team we have see where is goes

    Seems like we have idiots purchasing players so don’t trust them at all, imagine we went out and got Cedric why , a player who couldn’t make it into Southampton starting lineup and then realised he not good enough to be even played at RB

    Wouldn’t even bother saying anything about willian or luiz purchases

    BuendiA 1 goal 6 assist and that the type of player we won’t how is that better then the likes of martinelli pepe, that why am proposing stick with what we have

    Prime example if we didn’t bring in willian pepe would have played this season and we would have been able to make a proper determination about him is a now going into his third year and still don’t know if he is any good

    Cause if we played pepe doubt we would have done any worse than we did this season

  26. Sue says:

    Look at Buendia this season, Fred – topped the table with the most assists (16) and scored 15, not too shabby hey? 😜

  27. LBG says:

    RC/Rocky
    In advance of possible pre-match for Chelski, possible controversial pre post preamble.
    Title : ” Cant wait for GoonerB’s analysis of Club top to bottom………No! Cant wait!

    My views exclusively
    Top to bottom
    1Let Ek buy the Club, but only with shares available for ordinary supporters to invest in and set a number that gives place on Board.
    2. Get Wenger and Dein on that Board.
    3. Bring Henry, DB10 and Vieira into the Club as figure heads in some form. They might invest in enough shares to get on the Board.
    4. Back Mikel, perhaps only for the time being, but add again Brady and Llungberg to the coaching team
    5. Back our fantastic youth. Get Mavrapanos, Saliba, and Willock back. Get rid of our un-motivated deadwood…..you know who they are!
    6. Bring our DNA back.

  28. RC78 says:

    I think Mavropanos could be either brought back or sold at a good price. Depends on our finances I suppose.

    Saliba needs more playing time – he is not doing exceptionally well at Nice and I would say that he needs a loan in the EPL before joining us.

    Willok is a tough one. For me, he has to go but I can see why there is a motion to keep him. He is doing well at Newcastle.

    If EK buys the club, he will include a fan-shares model so that could be good. I think we should not have an over romanticized view of the past. We need to also look forward and I think that we should not bring in Wenger or Dein on the board for that reason but they can be called upon as advisors to the board on some issues. As for Henry, DB10 and Vieira – what would they be doing? Henry and Vieira want to be Head coach and at the moment, we have Arteta…

    DB10 could be good as a stikers’ coach for the youth and senior set-up so I would be delighted to have him. I think we need someone also with more experience and grit than Edu so I would be happy to replace him by Overmars who is doing a solid job at Ajax. That said, we could also look into bringing Luis Campos who has done wonders for Porto, Real, Monaco and Lille.

    If we bring in former players, I d like them to be happy coaching on specific positions so
    – if Seaman wants to join the GK coaching staff, great
    – if Campbell wants to join the defenders coaching staff, great
    – if Gilberto wants to join the defensive mids coaching staff, great
    – If Pires wants to join the midfielders coaching staff, great
    – if Bergkamp and/or Wright wnt to join the strikers’ coaching staff, great.

    I agree that Ljungberg should be brought back in the youth set-up. He worked well with BFG and he did push for Saka, Willock and ESR to join the first team and had a good rapport with the senior team too.

    Youth set-up: BFG, Ljunberg
    Senior set-up: Arteta (for now), Bergkamp, Seaman, Campbell, Gilbero and Pires

    Management role: Luis Campos, Overmars

    Ad-hoc advisory role: Wenger on some very specific topics.

  29. LBG says:

    RC
    Me, over romanticized! Never, sir.

  30. RC78 says:

    Another big summer for Edu-Arteta…their last life line really…

    The positions we cannot get wrong this summer are:
    1. Goalkeeper – we backed the wrong horse and suffered for it.
    2. Right-back – it is time to recruit a solid right back.
    3. Left Forward – it is time we get someone who can help create goals through assists, runs, dribbles and who can score from outside the box too if possible. We need another Pires really. I am not sure Martinelli or Pepe can get to that level just yet.

    Then the other key position is Central midfield but it depends on the set-up next year…As for the Forward position, we have Auba/Laca/Balogun and I think we should let go of Nketiah and take a chance on Onuhachu maybe or bring Giroud back…If we let Laca go, then I d say we should take a good look at Bamford or Toney.

    So it is 3 signings for me for sure and potentially 5.

    RECRUIT – RECRUIT, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney – Partey, RECRUIT – Saka, ESR, RECRUIT – Auba?

    Donnarumma – Emerson, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney – Partey, Ward-Prowse – Saka, ESR, Depay/Kostic – Auba

    Ryan – Chambers, Holding ,Gabriel, Cedric – Buendia, Xhaka, El Neny, Pepe – Laca/Balogun/Onuhachu(?), Martinelli

    Just speculating…I will put a post soon…

  31. Jaroda says:

    “Leno – 7

    No mistakes, some good saves and commanded his box well. The best outing from Leno for some time.”

    The stats from the match say that WBA only had one shot on target and they scored that. Therefore Leno made exactly zero saves in the whole match.

  32. LBG says:

    Jaroda
    “Lies, damned lies, VAR and statistics”.

  33. RC78 says:

    You can always manipulate stats to your advantage

  34. RC78 says:

    New post everyone…building on this one

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