Huddersfield Town have today announced the loan signing of young Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe until the end of the season. In this article our chief writer John takes a closer look at the promising youngster to see what he might bring to Danny Cowley’s squad.
Who Is Emile Smith-Rowe?
The 19-year-old English midfielder is one of a number of highly-rated domestic talents to have come from Arsenal’s youth academy in recent years. Following the sacking of Gunners head coach Unai Emery earlier in the season, it appeared as though Smith-Rowe was about to stake his claim for regular first-team football at the Emirates.
Former youth team manager Freddie Ljungberg included Smith-Rowe in a number of match day squads in his brief time as Arsenal caretaker manager. However, new boss Mikel Arteta has deemed Smith-Rowe to be too far away from his first-team plans this season and has thus made him available for loan.
Where Does Smith-Rowe Play?
According to the player himself, his preferred position on the pitch would be just behind the striker as a ten. Mesut Özil is one of Smith-Rowe’s idols and the youngster claims to have learned a lot from the German midfielder in his time training with the first-team.
Earlier in Smith-Rowe’s embryonic career he played predominantly on the right or left wings. In the Arsenal academy it is common place for attacking midfielders to be played on the wing in their early development, as the coaching staff believe this is the ideal position to learn the game and make mistakes.
This method of positional practice was commonly implemented by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, at times to the chagrin of the Emirates faithful. So previous playing experience on the wing does no necessarily indicate that the 19-year-old is a winger by trade.
Whilst Smith-Rowe’s position at Huddersfield will be up to Danny Cowley, it is good to see the club bring in an attacking midfielder who is adept at playing in a number of positions in the attacking third.
How Does Smith-Rowe Play?
According to Emery, Ljungberg and Wenger Smith-Rowe has the perfect blend of mentality, physicality and quality to become a top player. The 19-year-old’s most notable quality to fans will be the precision of his right foot.
As you would expect from an Arsenal academy graduate, Smith-Rowe is incredibly confident and competent on the ball. However, his delivery from wide areas and ability to find the corner of the net with a precise finish are his stand-out features.
Off the ball, Smith-Rowe likes to be involved in the play and will often drift into pockets of space ready to initiate counter-attacks and quick combination football. The final third is Smith-Rowe’s domain, where he will look to either score himself or provide opportunities for teammates.
Is Smith-Rowe “Right” For Town?
Danny Cowley, David Webb and Phil Hodgkinson have all individually spoken of the importance of a player’s mentality when it comes to transfer business. Talent and skill are only half the battle where recruitment is concerned, as we have seen in the past with the likes of Diakhaby and Mbenza.
Emile Smith-Rowe is undoubtedly a talented player, but what stands out most is his mentality. Unai Emery has spoken of the youngster’s humble attitude and eagerness to learn before.
Speaking after a 3-0 win over Qarabag in the Europa League, Emery said this about Smith-Rowe:
“He is humble and he is humble to listen every day in training, in the video analysis and also before the match to continue improving and to keep taking one step more, like today.
“The last matches he played, for example against Brentford, he had three actions in the opposition boxes and didn’t score. But today, he had two and one was a goal. I think this is one step more for him.”
These characteristics make Smith-Rowe the perfect fit for Huddersfield Town and a management duo who are devoted to working with and improving dedicated players.
Is Smith-Rowe Experienced?
In short, no. The club website will undoubtedly make a song and dance about Smith-Rowe’s previous loan move to RB Leipzig – the current leaders of the Bundesliga.
Smith-Rowe did indeed join Leipzig last January, however his involvement at the club was limited to 26 minutes of playing time across 3 appearances thanks to an ongoing hip injury.
In that same season Smith-Rowe made 6 first team appearances for Arsenal in the League Cup and Europa League. This campaign he made his Premier League debut for the club along with 3 more starts in cup competitions.
With that in mind it may take a few games for Smith-Rowe to adapt to the speed and physicality of the Championship.
Should We Be Happy?
Of course. Emile Smith-Rowe is a player of undoubted talent and is somewhat of a coup for a struggling Championship side. At one point this season it appeared as though Smith-Rowe would have an important part to play at Arsenal for the rest of the campaign.
Fortunately for us, new Gunners chief Mikel Arteta is of the belief that a loan move will benefit Smith-Rowe more.
In conclusion, we have signed a young, supremely talented player who is capable of fulfilling a number of roles across the attacking midfield areas. With the continued absence of Alex Pritchard and our dearth of talent in wide area, Smith-Rowe is a welcome addition to the squad.
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