Arsenal’s League Cup showdown against Brentford on Wednesday could potentially be a turning point in Emile Smith Rowe’s career at the Emirates Stadium.
Widely considered a fundamental part of the Gunners’ long-term project under Mikel Arteta around a year ago, the 23-year-old has found himself on the fringes of the Spaniard’s squad.
Several injury setbacks at the halfway stage of last season saw the Arsenal homegrown product fall out of favour, slipping down the pecking order behind ex-captain Granit Xhaka and Fabio Vieira, among others.
Despite the Switzerland international’s summer departure, Smith Rowe’s situation in north London hasn’t improved this season, as he has only made 25 minutes off the bench across eight games thus far.
He earned standing ovations from the Emirates crowd after joining the fray from the bench in a 4-0 romping of PSV Eindhoven in last week’s Europa League fixture.
But Arteta gave him a cameo appearance in Sunday’s 2-2 home draw against fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur, throwing him into the mix deep inside stoppage time.
According to the Telegraph, Smith Rowe is in contention for the starting line-up against Brentford. It would be his first start for the Gunners in 499 days.
Speaking to the press in the build-up to the game, Arteta vowed to re-establish the attacking midfielder’s career at Arsenal, starting with tonight’s game at the Gtech Community Stadium.
“He needs time on the pitch – he needs opportunities, and we want to provide that to him,” he said.
“Then he needs to prove it, like anybody else on the field, that he deserves to play.”
It’s been over a year since the highly-rated youngster last started a match for Arteta’s troops, and his career at the club could depend on his showing against the Bees.
However, if things go sideways, Smith Rowe could leave his boyhood club as early as January, as we look at the three potential destinations should his Arsenal career hit a dead end.
Chelsea thought they had smelt blood in the water towards the end of the summer transfer window as they tried to lure Smith Rowe across the capital, only to encounter Arsenal’s strong rebuff.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men went after Manchester City’s Cole Palmer instead, but after a disastrous start to the season, free-spending owner Todd Boehly could open his chequebook again in January.
As one of the hottest English talents, Smith Rowe could be an exciting profile for the Blues, especially considering they lacked creativity in the early days of Pochettino’s regime.
While money shouldn’t be a problem for the wealthy American businessman, convincing the player to betray Arsenal for their bitter rivals could prove a significant roadblock.
Like Chelsea, creating chances has been Man Utd’s Achilles heel for most of 2023. Especially at the start of the new campaign, as evidenced by their mediocre average of 1.16 goals per league match.
Despite boasting the likes of Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes as the most prominent names in his midfield, Erik ten Hag cannot be satisfied with the Red Devils’ performances.
The Dutchman is still waiting for summer signing Mason Mount to find his feet at Old Trafford after enduring an injury-riddled start to his adventure in Manchester.
But Mount’s arrival doesn’t exclude the possibility of Man Utd pursuing another top English talent to bolster their ranks after a disheartening start to the new campaign.
Brighton & Hove Albion
It’s perhaps the least attractive name on the list, at least on paper. Yet the Amex Stadium has developed into one of the most exciting Premier League destinations under Roberto De Zerbi’s stewardship.
A year ago, it would be impossible to imagine Brighton landing a player of Ansu Fati’s stature. But after undergoing a renaissance under the Italian manager, they signed the Barcelona prodigy in the summer.
The Seagulls undoubtedly play the most enthralling football in England, and their attacking-minded style could tempt Smith Rowe to continue his career in East Sussex.
From a financial point of view, it could be a tricky piece of business for Brighton. However, it’s difficult to discard this option.
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