Emile Smith Rowe’s fast-paced year as Arsenal star prepares for England’s debut in the World Cup qualifying rounds
A call-up from England was so unthinkable for Emile Smith Rowe that when Gareth Southgate called him on the phone, the talented midfielder refused to believe it was him.
‘I got a message from Gareth saying, “Hi Emile, are you free to chat?” FA YouTube Channel. “I’m thinking, ‘Someone is texting me to make a joke and pretend to be him.”
It wasn’t a joke, the England coach was preparing to hand him over his first senior call-up. But the 21-year-old cannot be blamed for believing it was a joke, given how unlikely this situation was a year ago.
Emile Smith Rowe (right) is set to make his England debut against Albania or San Marino, and Gareth Southgate (left) hinted that he could be used in both this month’s qualifiers.
At this time last year, only Arsenal’s most ardent fans knew that Smith Rowe was capable of going this far.
Southgate has confirmed that the youngster will play some role in one or both of England’s games against Albania and San Marino this month, but a year ago this week, Smith Rowe was playing for Arsenal’s under-23 team in Gillingham at Papa John’s. Trophy.
Despite making his Gunners first-team debut three years ago under Unai Emery, injuries and a failed loan period at RB Leipzig crippled Smith Rowe’s progress, with his career revived for another temporary period. in Huddersfield after the first coronavirus lockdown.
While he had a lot of first-team football under his belt, Smith Rowe returned to the Arsenal academy to earn his stripes once again. The club even provided the midfielder with a personal chef to aid him in his diet, once filled with Nando and chocolate, but now consisting of salmon and pasta.
A year ago this week, Smith Rowe (left) was playing for Arsenal’s Under-23 team in Gillingham.
And despite being a staunch Gunners fan, it was actually the club’s failures on the field that reignited his career.
With Mikel Arteta’s team struggling in the league last Christmas, failing to win their last seven games in all competitions to sit near the bottom of the table, Smith Rowe was selected for a life-and-death London derby with Chelsea on Boxing Day.
With his first touch of the game, the youngster raced back to tackle N’Golo Kante on the fast break, thrashing the Frenchman at the midfield line before winning a free kick off the World Cup winner.
It was that positive play that sparked a mini resurgence of Arteta’s team not only during that London derby, which resulted in a 3-1 win, with Smith Rowe assisting Saka for Arsenal’s third, but also in the second half. it’s from the season.
Smith Rowe (right) fast-tracked Arsenal’s uninspired team on Boxing Day last season.
Smith Rowe has been a key and omnipresent figure for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal team (right)
Smith Rowe fixed a creativity issue that caused the Gunners to miss the net in open play in nine of their last 10 league games, but then scored on each game bar one for the next seven.
‘HERE WE GO … SAKA AND EMILE SMITH ROWE’
Arsenal league games together: 30
League minutes together: 1948
Combined victories for Arsenal: 16
Losses together for Arsenal: 8
Saka Goals via Smith Rowe Assist: 3
Smith Rowe Goals via Saka Assists: 2
His relationship with Arsenal and now his teammate in England, Saka, is central to that. The pair combined once again in a 4-0 win over West Brom with a wonderful team goal just two games later, proving how well the academy graduates, who have played together since they were teenagers, became fundamental to the Gunners attacking game.
Another Smith Rowe assist for a Saka goal came in January this year in a 3-0 win over Newcastle; That early connection is the main reason Arsenal fans sing the names of the academy duo to Status Quo’s Rockin ‘All Over the World (‘ Here we go … Saka and Emile Smith Rowe).
In the last 23 Premier League games of last season, Smith Rowe started all but four of those games, while also starting all Europa League games from the second leg of the last 16 onwards. when the Gunners reached the semifinals.
A personal highlight came in another London derby with Chelsea, with Smith Rowe scoring the winning goal at Stamford Bridge against the club who turned him down at the academy level for being ‘too small’ before finding his way to Arsenal. .
But another key moment, especially given this week, was his first call-up to the England Under-21 team in March. Now Southgate was looking more closely.
Smith Rowe told the FA media team this week: ‘When I went out with other age groups, he (Southgate) was always there, watching me in training at times and always saying hello and wondering how I was doing. Maybe (he saw something). ‘
Midfielder Smith Rowe won his first England Under-21 squad in March this year
Smith Rowe has developed a strong bond with his academy teammate Bukayo Saka (right)
Southgate had reason to believe he was special, and so was Arsenal. With Aston Villa making several offers for Smith Rowe over the summer, the club needed to act.
Smith Rowe landed a long-term contract until 2026, but with that came an even bigger prize: the number 10 Arsenal jersey. Worn by players like Dennis Bergkamp, Robin van Persie and Mesut Ozil, he confirmed that the Croydon-born midfielder it was a big part of Arsenal’s future.
Perhaps Jack Wilshere’s possession of that number 10 jersey is a reminder that things may not go as planned for Smith Rowe, but if this season is something to go through, that eventuality seems unlikely.
In July, Smith Rowe received a long-term contract from Arsenal, in addition to his iconic number 10 jersey.
He has added goals to his game during the beginning of the season, and Saka is now returning the favor by helping his close friend from academia twice in 2021.
But Saka was unavailable to set up Smith Rowe for the three goals the midfielder scored in three straight games for Arsenal before being called up for England.
Only three players under the age of 21 have accomplished that feat for Arsenal: academy teammate Cesc Fabregas and established signings Nicolás Anelka and José Antonio Reyes.
His recent form has drawn applause from outside Arsenal. Jamie Carragher, who predicted that Smith Rowe would be his young player of the year at the start of the campaign, described the 21-year-old as the ‘best player I see in the Premier League running with the ball’.
Smith Rowe is just the third Arsenal player under 21 to score in three straight league games.
Smith Rowe (far left) already won the U-17 World Cup with England, back in 2017
“ Sometimes players just show up and you can’t help but like them, ” Carragher told Sky Sports in October. When I see him move, I get excited. You will get caps from England.
Now, Smith Rowe is playing his role in an England team desperate to win the World Cup next year, but it’s worth remembering that the Arsenal man has already won his trophy at the youth level.
Along with Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi, the midfielder was part of the team that won the Three Lions U-17 World Cup in India in 2017.
Now Smith Rowe is ready to join those youth teammates in receiving an absolute cap from England for the first time. However, he could not only play a key role in bringing the Three Lions to Qatar, but also in winning the World Cup there.