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There weren’t many positives to take from Arsenal’s 2020/21 season but the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe as a first team figure was one of them. Indeed, the 20-year-old took his opportunity when it came mid-way through the campaign and made his place in the side stick, with Mikel Arteta counting on the youngster to provide some much-needed creativity.

Now, though, Smith Rowe’s future at the Emirates Stadium is uncertain. The midfielder has yet to put pen to paper on a contract extension which has prompted outside interest, with Aston Villa making a £25 million offer last week. That offer was rejected, but Villa’s pursuit might not end there.

It’s believed Arsenal could be persuaded to sell Emile Smith Rowe if the funds raised are significant enough to fuel other transfers, such as the permanent signing of Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid. The Gunners don’t have the budget of some of their Premier League rivals and so they have to be smart in the transfer market. This could involve the sale of some assets.

Smith Rowe, however, is one asset Arsenal must hold on to. Too often in the past, the Gunners have been hasty in moving on young prospects only to see them thrive elsewhere. Arsenal simply aren’t in a position to experience another Serge Gnabry or Donyell Malen. They have to be the ones to harvest their own crop

Along with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock and Kieran Tierney, Smith Rowe is part of a young group that should represent Arsenal’s future. These are the players Arteta must build around and therefore it’s imperative that Emile Smith Rowe is tied down before he has his head turned by Aston Villa or anyone else.

While he showed great promise last season, making 20 Premier League appearances, Smith Rowe has yet to realise his full potential. “He’s having an incredible season ever since he started to play in December,” Arteta explained after the midfielder’s first Premier League goal in a win over West Brom.

“But an incredible season for a number 10 of Arsenal means he needs to score 15 goals and give 10 assists. Then you are right up there with the top guys in Europe and in the league. He’s got the ability to do it but he hasn’t done it.” It’s this potential, that there is more to come, that makes Emile Smith Rowe such an exciting talent for Arsenal fans

Arsenal find themselves at a critical juncture in their recent history as a football club. The Gunners have now finished in eighth place in each of the last two seasons and have failed to finish in the top four since 2016. Every season Arsenal fail to drag themselves back up the Premier League table, it becomes harder for them to do so.

Leicester City have replaced Arsenal in the Premier League’s top six despite not having the resources of the North London side. The Foxes recruit smartly and have a coach in Brendan Rodgers who knows how to get the best out of what he has. Leicester City spend money in the transfer market, but only when they are certain it will improve their squad. They are the antithesis of Arsenal – wasteful and lacking in direction.

Before Arsenal can even think about catching Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the English game, they must aspire to follow Leicester City’s lead and that means holding on to the players, and characters, that could help their recovery. Emile Smith Rowe is one of those. Arsenal can’t allow him to walk out the door.

 


 

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