Emile Smith....Go?

Emile Smith Rowe has become quite the enigma at Arsenal. A player of enormous promise, his stock rose dramatically following a strong end to the 20/21 season, which saw him rewarded with the iconic number ten shirt and a new long-term deal to match.

Fast forward through the 21/22 season and things continued to flourish for the Hale End graduate. Notching an impressive ten league goals across the campaign, including memorable strikes against Tottenham and Chelsea, Smith Rowe had confirmed his status as a valuable first-team player.  

The following summer saw much change in the Arsenal starting XI, with the arrival of Manchester City duo Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, as well as the reintegration of William Saliba after a succession of successful loan spells in France. As the opening weekend arrived though and a difficult trip to Crystal Palace loomed, the squad saw a notable absentee in Smith Rowe, who missed out with a persistent groin issue. This allowed Gabriel Martinelli the opportunity to cement himself into the left wing position, a chance that the Brazilian did not let pass him by. While Smith Rowe endured an injury-ravaged year, Martinelli scored 15 times in the Premier League, helping catapult the club into an unexpected title race and a long-awaited return to the UEFA Champions League.

With less than 500 minutes of senior football under his belt since the beginning of the 22/23 season, Smith Rowe now needs to earn his stripes all over again. His solitary Premier League start this season came in the 5-0 win over Sheffield United, where he deputised for club captain Martin Odegaard, but in the days following the match he was yet again struck by injury. 

Across the 'winter break', Arsenal have been training in Dubai and the reports are that Smith Rowe has trained well. But on the eve of the fixture with Crystal Palace, news started to break that West Ham United had approached Arsenal over the potential loan signing of the 23 year old. This was naturally followed by enquiries at Arteta's pre-match press conference, where the Spaniard's message was clear: "We're really happy to have him here."

Perhaps the noise around his potential departure will force the hand of the manager to give the Englishman some much-needed opportunities, but it is down to Smith Rowe to take any chances he is presented with. It is clear to most that any opportunities that he does get will come as either a deputy for Odegaard, or more realistically, in the left eight role that Arsenal have struggled to fill since the departure of Granit Xhaka. 

The clamour has certainly been there from supporters, and it's fair to say that the academy graduate would be afforded more time than the likes of Kai Havertz and Fabio Vieira. The opportunity is there, but it's down to Smith Rowe to take it. If he can stay fit and take whatever opportunities come his way, then there is a valuable asset available to Arteta.

Prior to the break, a misfiring Arsenal frustrated supporters. They'll be hoping for better upon the resumption of Premier League action. Will that open the door for Smith Rowe, or is this the start of a prolonged goodbye?