Arsenal

Arsenal must find a permanent place for Emile Smith Rowe

Craig Vickers
Emile Smith Rowe scored as Arsenal beat Brentford
Emile Smith Rowe scored as Arsenal beat Brentford / IAN KINGTON/GettyImages
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Having boosted their top four credentials, Arsenal fans were in jubilant mood at full-time against Brentford as they serenaded their side to the tune of the now-famous 'Saka and Smith Rowe' chant.

The Gunners had downed the Bees in a score-line which never truly reflected their dominance throughout the afternoon. Bukayo Saka had doubled the lead 12 minutes from time to soothe fan nerves, but they were already gushing at the influence of the man on the opposite flank.

With the margins in the race for the top four so razor thin, Smith Rowe could hold the key between success and failure for Mikel Arteta's side.

His ninth goal of the Premier League campaign moved him level with Son Heung-min, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sadio Mane. He is increasingly becoming the X-factor in this Arsenal squad, providing the finishing touches to a lot of promising attacking patterns installed by Arteta.

The most staggering part of the Englishman's goal haul has been his comparable lack of minutes. In fact, prior to Saturday, Smith Rowe had started just one Premier League game in the last seven.

The 21-year-old has become victim to Gabriel Martinelli's re-emergence. Both players are at their best on the left-hand side cutting infield and, before the Brentford game, it was difficult to make the case that Arsenal were better off without the Brazilian's qualities.

Martinelli was suspended for this afternoon's victory after his red card against Wolves last time out, and that bizarre moment at Molineux - where the Brazilian was shown two yellow cards for two separate fouls in the same passage of play - could be sliding doors moment in Arsenal's season.

It should be an eye-opener for Arteta not to take Smith Rowe's goal contributions for granted.

The Englishman stands alone among Arsenal players in the Premier League goalscoring charts - Saka's strike against Brentford moved him onto seven goals for the campaign - which blows Alexandre Lacazette's meagre goal return out of the water.

It brings Smith Rowe's lack of opportunities into starker focus when you consider the Lacazette's goals per minute ratio. Arsenal's bid to return to the Champions League places could realistically be defined by their lack of goals.

But where does Smith Rowe fit into this current setup? Lacazette is seemingly unmoveable given his qualities in joining attacks together, while Arteta prefers Martin Odegaard in the No.10 role.

Martinelli's speed and one-on-one ability stretches opposition defences, and the midfield axis of Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka offers stability.

And yet perhaps the question should be where does this current Arsenal setup fit around Smith Rowe? Goals are a precious commodity in elite football and, in a team currently lacking a superstar goalscorer in a central position, it would be baffling for a manager to overlook a player who provides a solution to that very problem.

Arsenal soon welcome Wolves to north London. It is the stage for Smith Rowe to shine.

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