"He was out for a long, long time" - Mikel Arteta reveals why Arsenal star hasn't featured regularly this season
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has explained why Emile Smith Rowe has barely featured for the Gunners this season. The Spanish manager also hinted at a potential start for the England international against Brentford in the EFL Cup.
Ahead of Arsenal's Carabao Cup third-round clash against the Bees, Arteta said (via Football.london):
"Here he is incredibly popular. We all love him. It’s no different to what the people feel to what we feel about him. There's been many reasons why he hasn't started a match. He was out for a long, long time. He had a sequence of matches that he played with the national team, then he came in and didn't participate."
The former Barcelona midfielder added:
"In the last two matches he's played more minutes and tomorrow, he will have a big chance to show that he can play at this level and be a really important player for us."
Smith Rowe has struggled to find game time during the 2023-24 campaign, managing just five minutes on the pitch in the Premier League for Arsenal (a brief stoppage-time appearance against Tottenham Hotspur).
The English forward also came on as a substitute in Arsenal's 4-0 win in the UEFA Champions League over PSV on 21 September. It remains to be seen whether he will get his first start of the campaign under Arteta against Brentford on Wednesday (27 September).
"I think it suits him" - Mikel Arteta reveals 'the best position' for Arsenal star
Arteta believes Smith Rowe is destined to be a midfielder. The Arsenal manager insists that the England international plays better when deployed in the middle of the park as opposed to playing as a left-winger.
Smith Rowe has largely been positioned on the pitch to exploit his attacking abilities, registering 59 appearances over the course of his career as an attacking midfielder.
However, Arteta believes Smith Rowe's best performances come when he can slot into pockets of space as a midfielder. The Arsenal boss said:
"The best position for Emile is in those pockets. It is not to play as a pure winger. I think it suits him, I think the relationships will suit him. Now, he needs the minutes and he needs to prove that he can do what he can do."
"At this level, [competition for places] is [his biggest problem]. And if he goes to the national team, does he start? It depends on who is also in that position. So it’s one thing to be there, the other is to start. And then once you start, are you consistent enough to stay there? And you have to stay first as well."
Arsenal are currently fifth in the Premier League table after four wins and two draws in their first six encounters. The Gunners find themselves four points behind league leaders Manchester City.