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Talking Tactics

Smith Rowe driving Arsenal on with surging runs and goals

Adrian Clarke 1 Feb 2022
HUBLOTYPOTS-ESM-RisingStars

Adrian Clarke explains why the 21-year-old is among the standout rising stars this term

Adrian Clarke assesses five contenders for the 2021/22 Hublot Young Player of the Season award.

Emile Smith Rowe (ARS)

Smith Rowe’s progress at Arsenal has accelerated beyond expectations this season.

While the 21-year-old showed promise during the second half of 2020/21, since being handed the coveted No 10 shirt by Mikel Arteta last summer he has been consistently outstanding.

He is Arsenal’s leading scorer this term with eight goals, reaching that impressive tally after making only 14 starts, from a total of 19 appearances.

Hublot Young Player contenders

Smith Rowe is both creative and technically excellent, but his standout trait for Arsenal this term has been his powerful driving runs from deep.

He sprinted 70 yards to set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a memorable counter-attacking goal in a 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in September.

Smith Rowe scored himself from a similar lung-bursting run from his own half in a 3-1 win over Aston Villa, and he backed that up with another dynamic sprint to latch on to Martin Odegaard’s through-ball and score at Leeds United.

The efficiency and improvement of Smith Rowe’s finishing this season has been top-class.

He has hit the target with 17 of his 21 shots, and scored with 38.1 per cent of those efforts.

Smith Rowe season comparison
  2020/21 2021/22
Minutes played 1448 1282
Shots (exc. blocks) 10 21
Goals 2 8
Conversion rate % 20.0 38.1
Minutes per goal 724.0 160.3

Of all the Premier League players who have scored at least eight times this season, Smith Rowe’s conversion rate is the best by far. Jamie Vardy is closest with 30 per cent.

Meanwhile, from that same group of players, just three forwards boast a better minutes-per-goal ratio: Mohamed Salah, Vardy and Diogo Jota.

Super sub

Competition for places in Arsenal’s starting XI has intensified, thanks in part to Gabriel Martinelli’s emergence as a key man on the left side of the attack.

Odegaard and Bukayo Saka are also highly influential players, so Smith Rowe has found himself on the bench a little more often than he would have liked.

But he has responded brilliantly, showing his excellent attitude by making a big impact as a second-half replacement.

Indeed, having scored off the bench against West Ham United, Leeds and Norwich City, he is the second highest-scoring substitute this term.

Goals as a sub 2021/22
Player Goals Player Goals
Marcus Rashford 4 Michael Olise 2
Emile Smith Rowe 3 Odsonne Edouard 2
Alexis Mac Allister 2 Richarlison 2
Cucho Hernandez 2 Riyad Mahrez 2
Danny Welbeck 2 Steven Bergwijn 2
Divock Origi 2 Takumi Minamino 2
Jesse Lingard 2 Yoane Wissa 2

Smith Rowe is certain to remain one of Arsenal’s most valuable players over the rest of the season.

A creator and goalscorer who can operate in several positions, he has shown he has the talent and temperament to flourish for many years to come.

Also in this series

Part 2: Gallagher already one of the best box-to-box midfielders 
Part 3: Rice evolving from defensive specialist into top all-rounder
Part 4: All-round skills make Dennis Watford's main man
Part 5: Ramsey has perfect mentor as he develops his end product

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