When Emil Smith Rowe impressed in the Community Shield for Arsenal on 6 August, few would have predicted that just over three weeks later he might be leaving the club.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had given the young Englishman his assurances that he was very much part of his first-team squad, yet he had said much the same thing to Kieran Tierney, who now finds himself jetting to Real Sociedad on loan after unexpectedly falling out of the picture.
Smith Rowe has suffered a similar fate. The 23-year-old Hale End kid, who has won three caps for England, has not played a minute of Premier League football this season, despite pre-season promise.
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Worse for the academy graduate, he had to watch from the bench on Saturday as Fabio Vieira turned the Nottingham Forest game in the Gunners’ favour, despite the match finishing as a scoreless draw.
Arteta’s decision to turn towards Vieira was a surprising one, but also telling of where Smith Rowe currently sits in the manager’s thinking. It could be some weeks before he now has the opportunity to eclipse the former Porto player after the Portuguese’s strong weekend cameo – arguably his best performance since making a €35 million move last summer.
So with Smith Rowe down the pecking order, he has to ask himself the question: is it really best for his career to stay with Arsenal?
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Two goal contributions for Fabio yesterday 👏 pic.twitter.com/RZBup2BpX0
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 27, 2023
Does Smith Rowe follow Tierney out?
Tierney, who was seen as an essential member of the squad not so long ago, has been surprisingly forced out by Arteta, who had made much the same promises to the Scotland international over game time and importance as he had made Smith Rowe.
And at 23, the playmaker, who suffered groin problems last season, deserves and needs more of an opportunity to shine. He has only 67 Premier League appearances to his name and if he is to fulfil his potential must surely seek out a manager who trusts him.
Like Tierney, Smith Rowe is too good to be kicking his heels on the Arsenal bench. With the transfer window closing on Friday, it’s up to him to decide whether he can somehow force his way back into Arteta’s plan or is better trying to let his career flourish elsewhere. It will be a week that defines his career.