EMILE SMITH ROWE proved to Mikel Arteta that he must start every game with a classy performance in Arsenal’s 4-2 win over Chelsea.
The 21-year-old is now the Gunners’ joint top scorer this season despite making just 18 league starts.
Arteta has often left him out of his starting line-up in favour of Gabriel Martinelli, with the Englishman starting on the bench in Saturday’s defeat to Southampton.
But Smith Rowe got his start at Stamford Bridge and did not take long to show why he should be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
After Timo Werner had levelled things up at 1-1 following Eddie Nketiah’s goal, Arsenal broke away with devastating pace on the counter-attack.
Bukayo Saka found Martin Odegaard and Smith Rowe timed his run perfectly to meet the Norwegian’s pass, and he slotted in cooly without having to break stride.
It was a wonderful finish rolled into the bottom corner and he made it look simple – something which has been a bit of a feature of Smith Rowe’s goals this season.
Against Brentford, when he got a rare start on the left due to injury to Martinelli, he sprinted down the left flank before cutting in and guiding the ball into the far corner – all in one swift motion.
The defenders barely had time to react, as was the case for Chelsea tonight.
That is one of the many reasons why Arsenal fans have been crying out for Arteta to start the whizkid.
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Smith Rowe has now reached double figures for league goals – the first Englishman aged 21 or under to do that for Arsenal since Paul Merson in 1988-89, with Saka also joining the club after tucking away a last-minute penalty.
And only one player has done that for the Gunners since, Nicolas Anelka in 1998-99, a striker who went on to win the Premier League golden boot – not to mention the Premier League, Champions League and European Championship.
But with Arteta there is always the risk, or likelihood, that Smith Rowe will find himself back on the bench for the visit of Manchester United on Saturday.
After Smith Rowe scored in four consecutive league games in December he was benched in the home defeat to Manchester City, on January 1.
Since then he has started just six out of 12 games despite Martinelli scoring one in 11.
With another big game to come at the weekend Arteta could recall the Brazilian – but that would be a strange decision after his side put four past Chelsea.
Smith Rowe provides creativity and invention for an Arsenal side that has not scored enough this season.
A likely reason for that is Smith Rowe’s lack of game time but the one thing for certain is that the wonderkid possesses the talent to propel Arsenal into the top four.