Football News

Mikel Arteta explains key role Emile Smith Rowe could play in Arsenal’s Premier League title charge

By CJ Smith

Mikel Arteta explains key role Emile Smith Rowe could play in Arsenal's Premier League title charge

Published: 9:31, 5 April 2024

Arsenal’s midweek win over Luton Town was hardly eye-catching, with some perhaps disappointed by a 2-0 scoreline against a team without a Premier League victory since late January. 

However, it was enough to temporarily send them back top of the Premier League table and although Liverpool bumped them to second again a day later, the Gunners remain in the thick of the title race. What’s more, the result came despite Mikel Arteta making a host of changes to his starting XI, with Oleksandr Zinchenko, Thomas Partey, Reiss Nelson, Leandro Trossard and Emile Smith-Rowe all coming in.

The performance of the latter was particularly eye-catching. Making just his third Premier League start of the season, Smith Rowe looked like a player who has been integral to the Gunners all campaign, creating two chances, playing four passes into the final third, touching the ball five times in Luton’s penalty area and playing a role in both of Arsenal’s goals.

Arteta was beaming about Smith Rowe’s performance after the match, especially the positivity he brought to the Arsenal midfield.

“I love him as a player, he is a joy to watch. How he moves, changes direction and how physical he was today without the ball,” said Arteta. “He went into duels and won a lot of them and was thinking with that killer instinct to play forward and make things happen. When Emile is in that moment, it’s very difficult to stop him. Today he helped us a lot to win the game.”

Some may have seen Arteta’s decision to make so many changes as a risk. However, with Arsenal coming off the back of a testing 0-0 draw away at title rivals Man City, a trip to Brighton coming this weekend and Champions League commitments against Bayern Munich on the horizon, rotation is a necessity rather than a choice.

It wasn’t just Smith Rowe that caught the eye, of course. Nelson, for example, completed all 33 of his passes on the night, while Zinchenko maintained a 100% record in his combined aerial and ground duels while posting excellent defensive numbers.

That depth might just be the edge that allows Arsenal to claim a first Premier League title since 2004 rather than falling short like last season.

“I look at my players and squad in a different way. It’s a joy to have them fit. If we want to utilise the squad and maximise what we have, they have to play,” Arteta added.

“I thought it was the right moment to do that and they responded really well. I’m so happy for that because I think we have won again with a few players in good confidence and with rhythm right now. They’re going to be really important for us.”