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How to Solve a Problem Like Emile Smith-Rowe

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Arsenal have been quite busy in the transfer market so far this season, adding Fabio Viera and Gabriel Jesus to their roster while being linked with Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans and Ajax centre back Lisandro Martínez.

However, one conundrum that the Gunners need to solve among their existing squad is the role of Hale End graduate Emile Smith-Rowe. Despite being the highest scoring EPL midfielder (outside of penalties) last season, the 21-year-old is far assured a place and was ousted by the similarly talented Gabriel Martinelli towards the end of last season.

Getting the best out of Smith-Rowe consistently could be crucial to Arsenal claiming a top four spot next season. They’re currently 2/1 to achieve this objective, and you can use the Natural8 Promo Code to access a free bet and wager on this outcome.

But how can the Gunners achieve this, and will Smith-Rowe be a regular starter next term?

A Puzzling End to the Season

Smith-Rowe entered the 2021/22 campaign having contributed seven goals and seven assists during the previous season.

Overall, he maintained a similar level of performance, hitting double digits for goals (11) and contributing two assists as he became the highest scoring EPL midfielder from open play.

However, after scoring against Brentford on February 19th, Smith-Rowe only struck once more in the remaining 13 games (although this was an important goal that came during an impressive 4-2 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge).

During this period, Brazilian livewire Gabriel Martinelli was often preferred to Smith-Rowe, while the latter missed the last six games of the league campaign and assumed a permanent role on the bench.

What are the Reasons Behind This Decline?

Of course, we can’t overlook the immense quality of Martinelli, who operates as a more classic inverted winger and is arguably a more instinctive goalscorer than Smith-Rowe.

However, squad competition among players doesn’t fully explain the latter’s difficulty during the second half of last season, with Smith-Rowe having excelled through the autumn as a regular starter and showcased similarly quick feet, powerful running (and acceleration) and an unerring eye for goal.

But what else could be at play here? Well, one factor is Smith-Rowe’s errant decision making, with the England U21 star often taking on a shot or holding on to the ball when a simple pass to a teammate was the preferable option.

This is likely to be a major bugbear for his detail-oriented and micromanaging boss Mikel Arteta, for whom teamplay and effective decision making are key components when executing his possession-based playing style.

Of course, Smith-Rowe’s exceptional acceleration also makes him a candidate to play in the number 10 position. However, Martin Ødegaard has quietly excelled in this position, while once again showcasing better efficiency in possession than his English teammate.

The Bottom Line 

Ultimately, Smith-Rowe has struggled due to a combination of factors, from intense competition in the forward line to a lack of effective decision-making during attacking phases of the game.

He has also remained firmly in the shadow of his fellow Hale End teammate Bukayo Saka, while the summer signings of Jesus and Viera (with the potential of more to come) could make it even harder for Smith-Rowe to become a regular starter next season.

However, he remains young at just 21 years of age, so effective coaching and his ability to showcase hunger could still see him fulfil his obvious potential at the Emirates.

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