If you told Emile Smith Rowe that in the space of three months he would have made his first Premier League start for Arsenal, named Man of the Match in a north London derby and earned his first call-up to the England Under-21 squad then he’d be hard pressed to believe you.
The 20-year-old was on loan at Huddersfield Town last season and is revered by supporters in West Yorkshire for scoring the winning goal against West Brom which helped secure their Championship status for another season.
But did the midfielder envisage becoming a regular in the Arsenal line-up in these circumstances?
“We weren’t getting great results and I think the manager thought, ‘Why not?’ I’d been playing well in the Europa League and luckily got my chance,” Smith Rowe told Mail Online.
Smith Rowe’s humbleness is one trait that Mikel Arteta likes to see in his players. Those extra one on one sessions, arriving on time and taking instructions on board are the small things that only those inside the club will get to see.
Comparisons with Kevin De Bruyne aren’t too far away from the truth either. The youngster is regularly called ‘Kevin’ by his teammates whenever he does something noteworthy in training – and it’s a name that will certainly stick with him if he continues to surpass expectations.
For Smith Rowe though, it’s all about carving out a career and establishing his own name in the Premier League and beyond.
“You see these players on the pitch and it doesn’t feel like reality,” he says.
“It’s the first time I’m playing against Harry Kane, against Gareth Bale. At one point, Bale is marking me for a corner and I’m thinking, ‘This is crazy’. Growing up watching the north London derby, it’s the biggest game of Arsenal’s season. So to start, win and get man of the match — I got home and couldn’t believe it.”
87 per cent pass accuracy in 1434 minutes of football is testament to the technical quality of Smith Rowe and his ability to pick out a teammate at the right time.
His strengths lie in his attitude and work rate which makes him a tough player to defend against. Four goals and two assists in all competitions this season show that there is work to be done, however.
The player himself has admitted that he’s working in training on making runs inside from the flanks and testing the goalkeeper with a shot on goal. Arsenal assistant Steve Round has led many of the one on one sessions as he looks to improve Smith Rowe’s numbers in the final third.
“Emile has got all the attributes, all the qualities that’s needed to play for this football club and, in my opinion, to play for the national team,” said Arteta last month.
“After it is about finding the consistent level that is required, because obviously that level is as good as it gets. But I think he has shown in moments of this season what he can do.
“So it is about now doing it for longer periods, adding more assists, more goals, being a threat all the time and working as hard as he has been doing because I think he has been phenomenal for us.”
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An England call-up this summer is certainly not out of the question if Smith Rowe’s goals and assists tally increase over the next few games, but right now his focus is clearly on Arsenal.
football.london understands that the Croydon-born starlet has a very good relationship with Arteta and the mutual respect between the two could be seen in a recent post-match interview where he described the Arsenal boss as “amazing.”
The perfect mix of humility and flair, Smith Rowe has all the potential to become a crucial part of the Arsenal and England midfield for years to come.