Talking Tactics

Smith Rowe return will sharpen Arsenal's cutting edge

By Adrian Clarke 15 Dec 2022

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Adrian Clarke profiles four players who are coming back from injury and will be like a new signing when the Premier League returns.

Emile Smith Rowe (ARS)

Arsenal will look forward to welcoming Smith Rowe back into the fold as he nears a return from a long-term groin injury.

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The attacking midfielder was exceptional last season, scoring 10 Premier League goals from only 21 starts.

He gives Arsenal drive and creativity down the flanks, as well as clinical finishing, so manager Mikel Arteta will be thrilled to have him available for selection.

In terms of end product in the final third, the Gunners have shared the load this season. All their regular starting forwards have chipped in with multiple goals and assists.

Smith Rowe, 22, will add to their armoury of attacking options between now and the end of the season.

Smith Rowe highlights

The England international was Arsenal’s second-highest Premier League goalscorer last term, one behind Bukayo Saka.

He averaged a goal every 192 minutes, with an impressive chance conversion rate of 32.3 per cent.

Arsenal's top scorers 2021/22
Mins per goal Goals
Nketiah 164.8 Saka 11
Smith Rowe 192.0 Smith Rowe 10
Aubameyang 259.7 Odegaard 7
Saka 271.9 Martinelli 6
Martinelli 311.0 Nketiah/Gabriel 5

Among Premier League players who scored 10 or more goals last season, only Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur was more clinical than Smith Rowe, with the South Korean converting 33.3 per cent of his chances.

Notably, Smith Rowe scored four of his goals from outside the box, which underlines his ability to win matches with a moment of brilliance.

Most goals from outside box 2021/22
Player Total
De Bruyne 5
Ward-Prowse 5
Smith Rowe 4
Rodri 4
Son 4
Raphinha 4

Smith Rowe is always looking to drive into the penalty area and can finish with both feet. Seven of his goals last term were scored with his right foot, and three using his left.

He is a consistent creator of chances too.

Even if he only provided only two assists in 2021/22, he averaged 1.4 key passes per 90 minutes.

He will bring imagination to the side on his return.

Where will he fit in?

Smith Rowe’s most effective position last season was on the left of Arsenal’s front three, the role occupied by Gabriel Martinelli this term.

It will not be easy to displace in-form Martinelli from the starting XI but, in the absence of the injured Gabriel Jesus, Smith Rowe could be included on the left, with Martinelli pushed into a striker’s role on occasion.

Smith Rowe has shown his versatility in the past, shining in a box-to-box role as part of a midfield three, as a No 10 and on the right of Arteta’s forward line. He has also featured sparingly as a "false nine" striker.

Game-changing option

Smith Rowe will initially give Arteta a tremendous game-changing option from the bench.

He has a strong record as an impact substitute, scoring off the bench against West Ham United, Leeds United and Norwich City last season.

Having featured for only 48 minutes this term, the England international will now be eager to play his part.

His involvement during the second half of the campaign is sure to excite Arsenal fans.

Also in this series

Part 2: How Isak can fire Newcastle's top-four challenge
Part 3: Martial ready to be United's leading man after Ronaldo exit
Part 4: Fofana return can put Chelsea back on front foot

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