Arsenal are believed to have a striker at the top of their transfer list this summer, but with fees expected to be high, Mikel Arteta could turn to the Gunners’ academy to find a much cheaper solution.
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Emile Smith Rowe has already reached something of a crossroads in his Arsenal career despite having only one full season in the first team.
The Hale End Academy graduate burst onto the scene after a Championship loan spell with Huddersfield Town and became a real contender to take the role of playmaker at the Emirates Stadium, especially after being handed the number 10 shirt. exactly that in the opening months of the 2021/22 season with eight Premier League goals to his name before the turn of the year.
However, since then it hasn’t quite gone according to plan for the 21-year-old. After finding the net against Brentford in February, he only made six league starts in the final months of the season; the only goal contribution from him was a strike in the memorable 4–2 victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Mikel Arteta used to prefer Martin Odegaard in the number 10 position as the Norwegian enjoyed an impressive debut season at the Emirates Stadium and made his loan from Real Madrid permanent. Meanwhile, fellow Smith Rowe academy graduate Bukayo Saka claimed the right flank for himself, with Gabriel Martinelli re-emerging as a viable option on the left for the Gunners.
That dilemma is likely to remain next season, potentially leaving one of Arsenal’s most creative and threatening players without a defined role in the team. Fortunately, Arteta could watch his spell at the Etihad Stadium to get some inspiration on how Smith Rowe’s talents could best be deployed.
City star Phil Foden enjoyed his debut for the reigning Premier League champions during Arteta’s time as assistant coach to Pep Guardiola. As his development has progressed, the England man has gone on to fill multiple positions in the City side, one of the most recent being a central attacker, the side that has been lacking an outright striker in large swaths of the bell.
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He has certainly seized the opportunity. According to Transfermarkt, the four-time Premier League champion has scored nine goals in 19 appearances from central positions this season, an exemplary strike rate.
Arteta has already hinted that Smith Rowe could be in line for a similar role, as he was lyrical about the midfielder’s ability to fill that position alongside a bevy of others. He said: “He can play as a left winger, he can play as a left attacking midfielder, a right attacking midfielder and he can play as a nine, I think very, very well.”
While some will argue that once again there will be no room for Smith Rowe to be deployed as number nine if Arsenal enter the market for a new striker, it is quite possible that the Gunners could do without this summer, particularly without the attraction of Soccer Champions League.
Of course, a number of names have already been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium, including Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Victor Osimhen, but it remains to be seen whether the north London side would be willing to fork out the astronomical transfer fees that Everton and Napoli would be. demanding respectively.
With Eddie Nketiah likely to sign a new deal at the club, that could see the Gunners prioritize other positions, such as central midfield, leaving little funding to invest in forward positions. Arteta’s solution then could very well be Smith Rowe.
So despite having reached a crossroads in his Arsenal career, the academy graduate may well have inadvertently received the direction he needs to re-establish himself as a first-choice starter.