Emile Smith Rowe can be considered part of Mikel Arteta’s group of undroppables at Arsenal.
Having signed a new contract in the summer and taking on the iconic No.10 shirt number – following in the footsteps of Dennis Bergkamp, Mesut Ozil, Robin van Persie and Jack Wilshere – the 21-year-old is set to play a key role at the Emirates Stadium this season.
The shining light in the 2-0 defeat at Brentford on the opening weekend of the new Premier League campaign, Smith Rowe was quiet in the home loss my Chelsea and was rested for the 6-0 thrashing of West Brom in midweek.
That would suggest the attacking midfielder is in line for a recall against Manchester City this afternoon.
But what role will Smith Rowe have for Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium?
Of course, Mikel Arteta ‘s options in the advanced midfield roles have been boosted with the return of Martin Odegaard who is available to make his second Premier League debut following his £34m transfer.
The Norwegian was excellent against the Baggies, claiming a delightful assist for Bukayo Saka and the fact he was brought off just after the hour mark might be a clue that he’s cemented his place in the team to face City.
Although, that’s not to suggest Smith Rowe will be named on the bench.
Odegaard has been signed to ease the creative burden on Smith Rowe, and on many occasions last season when the former was on loan at Arsenal, Arteta named them both in his starting lineup.
Games such as the Europa League round of 32 first-leg tie against Benfica and the home win over Tottenham Hotspur saw Smith Rowe operate from the left in a 4-2-3-1 formation, tucking inside allowing Kieran Tierney to provide the width.
Smith Rowe could be set for the left-wing role once again for the trip to Man City as Arteta has already revealed that it’s a case of playing him and Odegaard in the same side when the opportunity arises instead of one or the other.
“The plan was to have more options and to start to create relationships with players that, in our opinion, could play together,” Arteta said last season. “We work together as a club to try to identify those talents, good players, and intelligent players that can always play together.
“We have to find the right structure for them to maximise their potential and this is what we are trying to do and we will try to do that even more with some of the players that we have with the same qualities.”
Should Arteta opt for Smith Rowe and Odegaard in his Arsenal lineup vs Man City, it means Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe will most likely do battle for the right-wing spot.
Both were impressive against West Brom in midweek which means the Spaniard has a massive decision to make.
Despite a disappointing start to the season for the Gunners, Pepe has been a glimmer of hope in terms of an attacking threat, but the prospect of Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling doubling up down City’s left might mean that Saka is the better option especially for his defensive qualities.